Heart Like Feathers marks Seattle songwriter Robert Deeble’s return to the studio after a six-year hiatus. In contrast to the weightlessness suggested by the album’s title, Deeble’s heart is anything but light. Instead, on these 10 songs he sounds positively world-weary. Whether it’s the guilt and shame of infidelity (“Undertow”), or the existential ache of “Eucharist” (where he sighs, “Bless me Father, I’m a mess”) Deeble mostly comes off heavily burdened by emotional deadweight. Given this full-length recording’s sparse percussion, empathetic and harmonic female backing vocals and mournful, gypsy-like violin fills, the pained and yearning Deeble comes off like a worthy descendent and disciple of Leonard Cohen. Deeble is also unafraid to stretch his compositions beyond the familiar alternating verse-chorus song structure; the Eastern-influenced semi-jam “The Colors of Dying,” showcases guitarist Ric Hordinski (formerly of Over The Rhine), who contributes the track’s distinctive Byrds-y, psychedelic tones. And while it’s impossible not to smile the moment Victoria Williams’ little girl voice enters the mix on “Sunflower,” moments of happiness are few and far between on Feathers. Honesty isn’t always pretty, and more often than not, Deeble has chosen to explore some of his own ugly truths. It’s to his incredible credit that he does so without flinching.
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