Horse Jumper of Love have a knack for picking up on the everyday magic that most people overlook. Their new album, Natural Part, finds the significance in the smallest details that you usually wouldn’t think twice about. On the follow-up to 2019’s So Divine, the Boston-based band continue to provoke profound emotion through obscure imagery and pensive slowcore.
When working on Natural Part, guitarist/vocalist Dimitri Giannopoulos decided to switch up his usual writing process. Through the record’s intricate instrumentation and heart-wrenching recollections, it’s clear that while Horse Jumper still have the same esoteric takes as earlier releases such as “Orange Peeler,” they also give themselves space to branch out, both sonically and lyrically.
A band that usually thrive on simplicity, they incorporate more ornate elements like a cello performance by Emily Dix Thomas that feels like they’re testing the waters of something denser before diving in. They also found themselves pulling inspiration from new sources of inspiration, such as Nirvana’s unplugged album and “Wonderwall” by Oasis, which they listened to while practicing for a Halloween cover set. “I definitely don’t write the same way I did for the other records anymore,” Giannopoulos said in a statement. “I never want to force anything or try to stick to a formula, and for this record I really felt like I could do whatever I wanted. I feel like I know myself a little more, like I’m a little more tapped into who I am and the songs feel more personal because of it.”
While Horse Jumper have shared a fair amount of intimate anecdotes (see the album art for their 2017 self-titled album), Natural Part feels like accidentally walking in on a private moment you weren’t supposed to have witnessed. There’s something about the specificity of the lyrics—the left-open drawers in the kitchen, falling asleep with the lights on, the cars driving by with the balloons in the back—that give you a sort of emotional deja vu. The more vivid the imagery, the harder it is to decipher if the inexplicable feeling in your chest is because you’ve experienced that moment, too, or because their minimalist lyrics give you just enough detail to perfectly recreate the scene in your head.
This sort of mystique is laced throughout the album as they recall a past that is undoubtedly subjective. Horse Jumper lean into the haze with fuzzy guitars and slow-burn build-ups that mirror the strange beginning phase of a memory returning to you. The layers of lush instrumentation act as a disguise for the gaps in Giannopoulos’ memory, a concept that both frightens and intrigues him, as he mentioned in a 2019 interview with Paste ahead of the release of So Divine. “A lot of the songs come from these really minor details or memories. Like, ‘Why the hell does this still resonate with me now?’ Maybe a memory that I had when I was like 14. Like, ‘Are these memories even real?’ I have no other recollection of that time in my life other than these few sparse moments. Maybe it’s just my memory’s really bad, and that’s why I write a lot of these songs.”
The perplexing fascination Giannopoulos has with the memories he writes about bleeds into what makes Horse Jumper so appealing: the fact that they memorialize the enigmatic moments that we get attached to and can’t explain why. They manage to tap into something otherworldly, something that you can’t necessarily make sense of, but that automatically resonates. From the fluorescent glow of the acoustic guitar on songs like “I Put A Crown On You” or the slouching malaise that weighs on “Mask,” their songs radiate a familiar comfort.
Horse Jumper aren’t strangers to making the minute moments into something monumental, and Natural Part has the sort of transformative perspective that only comes with hindsight. Songs like the title track feel like when you look back at a relationship post-breakup and can start to identify all the foreboding indicators that you didn’t pick up on at the time. Even when things don’t necessarily add up on the surface—like on “Chariots,” when Giannopoulos goes from describing a dead horse to professing, “But I love it when you make the bed”—there’s something just vague enough about the leap to give it an infatuating ambiguity.
However, amidst the swirl of drowsy atmospherics and occasional glimpses of light, there are moments when the mask seems to slip, and Giannopoulos doesn’t have time for any covert imagery—instead, he goes straight for the jugular, like on “Skunks,” when he asks, “They’re so happy / Why can’t I be?” after observing the skunks festering under his house. Flitting between blatant confessions and wrapping other intense emotion in seemingly insignificant details, the method gives a certain shock factor to the album. One moment you’re trying to decode the importance of the Karl Marx museum and the bag of Giannopoulos’ hair that someone discards, and then the next, they hit you with a raw confession. Still, Horse Jumper never place more importance on one than the other. Instead, they allow for the two to coexist the way that your memories do, the big ones brushing up against the small ones to create one complex narrative.
At its core, Natural Part is a musing on the mundane, and an examination of what sticks with us and why. Putting even the most trivial moments under a microscope and using them as symbols for the immense emotions they represent, Horse Jumper create an album that feels like a fever dream. “I love when those moments happen and it inspires something,” Giannopoulos reflects. “It makes me feel connected to the world. When something sparks my interest like that, it just feels like this is what it’s all about.”
Samantha Sullivan is a Paste Music intern and writer based in Philadelphia. She can be reached on Instagram @fangirlpurgatory.
Revisit Horse Jumper of Love’s 2020 Paste Studio session below.