It's rare that a band debuts by releasing two full-length albums on one day, but that's what The Horse Thieves did in October 2011. Led by Marshall McLean and Adam Miller, this Spokane-based group recorded Outlaw Ballads and Valley of Decision, albums based on McLean's and Miller's individual discontent with the past and uncertainty about the future.
Darkness certainly pervades both albums, a feel that pairs well with their Americana-folk-meets-alt-pop sound. There's no doubt about lines like "I focus on the pain, / Because at least I feel alive," especially in a song called "I Don't Want to be Happy." But there's also a level of hopefulness woven throughout: When they sing "I've never been more ready to begin" in the lullaby-esque "(I Was) Crazy (About You)," you get the sense that the singer truly yearns for redemption.
With a sound that's a little like Mumford and Sons meets Brett Dennen, The Horse Thieves have a few really strong attributes: fantastic harmonies, great slide guitar and some really catchy tunes. But while I'm impressed by their fecundity, they may be better off in the future producing just one collection at a time and focusing on a distinct flavor for each album.
The Horse Thieves play The Top Hat Friday, June 1, at 10 PM, with Butter and Bart Budwig. $5.