Horsegirl (Desmond) The Horsenning Album Review
Updated: Sep 26, 2022
The Horsenning by Horsegirl (Desmond) is a 30-minute long, absurd, enlightening epic that forms a discomforting yet warm picture of the perverse world that surrounds us all. Horsegirl expertly weaves a nonlinear blend of genres including pop, folk, rap, trap, electronic, and a sprinkle of metal to create a chaotic tapestry of bangers, emotional masterpieces, and sometimes outlandishly simple tracks that create an all-around phenomenal freshman album from Horsegirl. Just peep his post-Darwinian galaxy-themed album cover; need I say more?
Horsegirl begins his glorious album with “Grey’s Anatomy”, a catchy 2-minute folk song about the ridiculous nature of the TV show “where doctors go on crazy misadventures all the time.” Throughout the track Horsegirl comically sings about the ouroboros-esq nature of Grey’s Anatomy, most prominently found in the lines “and they have their crazy doctor sex and marry doctor wives. It’s really impressive since they do it all the time… Grey’s Anatomy, you’re watching Grey’s Anatomy.” The silly TV show serves as a device for Horsegirl to foreshadow the primary themes throughout the rest of his album: perpetual cyclical existence and strikingly honest yet witty humor. As the short song continues, repeating always nuanced epics of “Doctors marrying their wives and living their Doctor lives,” the listener starts to perceive these never-ending cycles that are choppily reiterated in a unique way through Horsegirl’s familiar, folky-sounding rhythms, chorus, and lyrics. Furthermore, Horsegirl’s comical emphasis on the repetitive nature of Grey’s Anatomy, the cyclical nature of the medical industry, and, by extension, humanity is briefly revealed in the exclamatory line: “no one ever dies and everybody wins!” This ironic, optimistic reflection on Grey’s Anatomy is how individuals and systems alike reflect on their past; they’re always winners, living a repetitive life because they’re alive, they’re the ones creating this synchronistic history that is infinitely replicated because the people alive will always be the winners. History is His Story after all; the winners get to choose how to tell it.
The second track on Horsegirl’s epic, “Bbimmawantu” featuring sLAy818, introduces his listeners to the hyper-pop, post-trap zeitgeist that Horsegirl both reflects on and intertwines throughout this EP. Continuing the ouroboros-esq theme of The Horsenning, “Bbimmawantu” hits hard as sLAy818 raps with a heavily auto-tuned, melodic, repetitive, lullaby-like flow that further solidifies the primary theme of Horsegirl’s album with bars like, “Take her honor, I’ll lay on her, take her honor, I get under her armor.” In between sLAy’s verse, Horsegirl serenades his audience with dualistic, pop-inspired lyrics, ironically informed by sLAy’s, such as, “You’re the only one I care about, babe” and “Baby I’ma want you, Baby I’ma need you”. Overall it’s an excellent track and certainly one of many early highlights on the album.
Horsegirl’s third track is “Poltergeist”, one of my personal favorites on the album. This nuevo-gothic-trapaholic bop illustrates Horsegirl as an eternal poltergeist that will “live forever” as a truck. Horsegirl’s brief alter-ego, this omnipresent poltergeist, reiterates the album’s overall theme: the infinite, ridiculous, cyclical nature of existence. As the track continues, Horsegirl solidifies his genuine redneck roots by painting a picture of “Tearin’ up tracks in the mud, c-c-country girl shakin’ her butt, Horsegirl in a real big truck.”
“Oh Yuck” is one of Horsegirl’s many masterpieces. In this song, Horsegirl unapologetically delves into the depressing nature wrapped in the cyclicality of time that’s been a consistent theme throughout The Horsenning. Over a looped, seemingly ever-building up synth line, Horsegirl complains about how he hasn’t “left his apartment except to maybe take the trash out or work” and how he feels “so uninspired” and that his “songs all sound the same,” only to quickly refute what he previously stated by communicating, “when they don’t, they’re just ridiculous” only to instantly return to self-depreciation by saying that “I don’t even like [my songs] that much.” The track closes with a discombobulated instrumental breakdown that climaxes with an uncertain epiphany as Horsegirl shouts “but I’m living with myself and I’M FINE!”
Next up is Horsegirl’s self-titled track “Horsegirl”. It begins with a sinewy, unsettling, dissociating guitar loop that lays out this incoherent yet catchy melody over a barely audible but gorgeous female singer. As the track plays out, it choppily unfurls into a chill, folk-trap-noise song where Horsegirl vulnerably tells the world about Horsegirl, singing, “People they call me Horsegirl, and what else can they do?” and “You didn’t have a problem with Meatloaf, you didn’t seem to have a problem with Sting.” While initially quite layered and an overall overwhelming track, I continuously get more appreciative of this track the more I listen to it. I believe Horsegirl’s primary focus for this song was to relate his transition from Desmond to Horsegirl, Sting’s transition from Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, and Meatloaf’s transition from Marvin Lee Aday to a transition of name and sex. With lyrics like, “If someone’s going to have a new name then why you gonna be a bitch about the whole thing” and “It’s not so hard to say something new and you can say it until you die” Horsegirl embraces gender androgyny while relating it to famous musicians who similarly changed their identity and became something completely new.
“Call U On My Phone” is Horsegirl’s sixth track– a poppy ballad that initially details the life he’s living: “I’m the kinda boy you see waking up in the gutter after getting eight hours of sleep though.” Ultimately Horsegirl begs the question, “will you pick up if I call you on my phone?” Throughout the song Horsegirl displays his dismay revolving around the cyclical nature of modern hook-up culture. Horsegirl practically just repeats the hook throughout this track, questioning over and over if this girl will pick up if he calls her on her phone. But his calls go “straight to voicemail every single time”, only to try to call again wondering “is it better if I call you on my phone when I’m feeling all alone, girl I really wanna know.”
“#1 Pal” acts in direct opposition to “Call U On My Phone” as Horsegirl creates a serenade to his girlfriend, singing, “Oh Gabby girl you’re my very best friend, want to hold your hand as we die in the end, I wanna get real close as the world explodes, I turn to a fossil with my favorite girl.” Horsegirl seemingly created a world for himself that’s outside the cyclical, depressing, hook-up culture template. “#1 Pal” is followed by “True Luv” which is largely devoid of intelligible words but through the partially despondent and impulsive sounding instrumentation, Horsegirl seems to give into a familiar concoction of love and lust, reflecting on the previous two tracks with a grungy attitude.
These love ballads abrasively rush into the next song on the album, “Demonz,” a happy-go-lucky anthem about embracing your demons to understand how you can better yourself. This track features a heavy and over-the-top synth lead backed up by some ridiculous drums. Horsegirl accentuates the poppy, fast-paced beat with uplifting, transparent lyrics like “If you fear the demons who are chasing after you and think that causing suffering is all that demons do I know that demons cause enlightenment, fear is just your fault, they just want us to know what we did wrong” concluding the banger with, “demons aren’t our monsters, demons are our friends.”
“Don’t Pray” is a relaxing, adequately placed 4-and-a-half-minute pop-country song that proposes that praying isn’t the answer, you’ve got to “do your part.” “Don’t pray when I’m going to make my mark, when you’re hiding in the dark, when the kings about to start… You just gotta do your part and don’t pray.” This song illustrates how Horsegirl prioritizes action over wishful thinking or prayer–Horsegirl states that you have to go out and do what you want to do, you can’t just hope it will happen.
“Sam and Des Rule the Part Anthem” is a brief, 51-second interlude that’s, simply put, fucking awesome. This party bopper recontextualizes the theme of cyclicity by observing partying and doing drugs as Horsegirl sings, “it’s a little drop of poison someone sprinkled into my eyes, it’s a little drop of heaven I inject into my mind.” At the end of the song, Horsegirl has this glorious series of lines that I need to explicitly point out: “When I party my way up to the pearly gates not a single soul on Earth will be surprised, cause you can’t slow down and you can’t hold back and I party till the day that I die. When the angels party down on my tragic day of fate I look each one of them in the eyes, cause you can’t slow down and you can’t hold back and I’m happy cause I partied all the time.” “When the angels party down,” God damn that’s good.
“Mr. NPR” is also another extremely short hyper-poppy post-industrial track starring sLAy818. In this 28-second track sLAy clumsily raps about the ridiculous cyclicality and ever-increasing innovation potential within the music and radio industry from an ironic standpoint, rapping one particular bar, “video killed the radio star.” With an obvious reference to The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star” sLAy reinterprets the multi-decade-old question by asking what will be killing radio or music in the future. Overall sLAy’s sardonic bars further tie into the recurrent nature of everything throughout the Horsenning– there is no true beginning, middle, or end. Just one destination after another, after another, until we inevitably end up at the first destination again, possibly recontextualized from previous experience.
“Plz Forgive Me” featuring Tomtommygun is a straight up rap track that basically reflects on the fucked up nature of cyclical humanity’s troublesome past as Tomtommygun looks for forgiveness, citing allusions to the Bible, Jesus’s disciples, the IRA, and the Queen of England. Horsegirl quickly comes in during the second half and just slaps the beat around with silly bars like “Sissy lil’ sister, if she forgivin’ me then I swear I’m gonna kiss’t her.”
“Massive Invisible Spike” is, in my opinion, Horsgirl’s magnum opus where themes throughout The Horsenning all weave together. This song is catchy, fun, iconically depressing, and somewhat hopeful simultaneously. Horsegirl initially states, “This hurts but I’m fine, but I’m fine, go to work, go to work, come on time”. Themes of cyclicality, despondent isolation and responsibility all are present throughout this song which ties the whole album together eloquently. The chorus of this song further echos these themes as Horsegirl sings, “Do whatever’s going on here, I swear that it is not quite right, whatever invisible spike I’m impaled on, it does not feel so nice, I’d take it out if I knew for sure that it was there.”
Overall Horsegirl (Desmond) expertly weaves together the ridiculous cyclicality of the world on his debut album The Horsenning. I can’t recommend enough that you give it a listen, as I haven’t heard anything like it before.