Childhood nostalgia strolls through Eight Belles, the debut from folk/chamber-pop trio Jessie Murphy in the Woods. Bright pop pieces, like “When I Am a Horse Again” and “Tour de Force,” have a brisk, positive sheen, but dig deeper and there is indirect darkness that pierces the songs’ surface sunshine. Organic instrumentation (panpipes, flute, clarinet, oboe and more) softens the dimmed edges of the nine-track album.

On “In the Woods” Murphy sings in a high, clear voice of sorrow and dying beautiful. “We Are the Ones” discloses the difference between dreams (romantic idealism) and reality (heartache and pain). Even humorous moments have a sober side. Whimsical “God Save Owen Wilson” reveals roses hide thorns. The recurrent theme of horses (the daydream of many little girls) is used as an escape mechanism (“When I Am a Horse Again”), but ultimately connotes suffering and death, as told during the true tale of the title track.

Grade: B



Eight Belles is currently available.