Since 2013, Horse Jumper of Love have been a comforting outlet for the heart-on-sleeve compositions of singer-guitarist Dimitri Giannopoulos. On their self-titled debut and follow-up So Divine, drummer Jamie Vadala-Doran and bassist John Margaris worked like an ocean tide, pulling you in with a tranquilizing steadiness before abruptly turning aggressive. The band’s latest release strips back its sound to meet a slack current. Recorded in the Catskills over five days in 2021, Heartbreak Rules is a mini-album that, save for a brief piano part in “Chariots” played by Margaris, separates Giannopoulos from his bandmates for the first time in a decade. Backed solely by co-producer Bradford Krieger, he returns with a muted collection that taps into the strengths of the band’s earliest material.

Giannopoulos and Krieger team up for eight new songs, plus two reimagined tracks from 2022’s Natural Part and one cover from the vault. Though not as loud or bold as their previous album, the new material on Heartbreak Rules still charms. Country guitar and cheery melodies expand the band’s slowcore palette, straying from their established brand of gloom. On the title track, Giannopoulos breaks out a looping fingerpicked riff that shimmers next to slide guitar; the combination suits his raspy, confessional voice, especially when he reaches for higher notes. It’s a glum take on alt-country that’s earned the admiration of Wednesday’s MJ Lenderman.

At the band’s live shows, audience members sway side-to-side, caught in a state of hypnosis; Horse Jumper of Love cast a similar ambiance here. On “Sugar in Your Shoes (Last Night Version),” an acoustic rendition of Natural Part’s “I Poured Sugar in Your Shoes,” Giannopoulos sounds like he’s perched at an open window, voice floating into the evening air. The light and unassuming presence of Krieger’s percussion suits the softer material, though there are moments when Vadala-Doran and Margaris’ absence is obvious, like the underpowered build-up in “Queenie’s Necklace” and the meandering tempo of “Act of No Substance.” The familiar tension of Horse Jumper of Love’s more characteristic material is not the goal here.

As a songwriter, Giannopoulos has always been drawn to mundane details, and the quieter scenes on Heartbreak Rules are especially intimate: a person talking to herself while looking through the fridge, a conversation in a closet muffled by clothes. In this setting, the Microphones comparisons that Horse Jumper of Love earned in their hushed early years come back into view. A lyric like “Pendulums swinging in the watch store all in discord/She tracks dirt in and leaves a mess wherever she stomps around” is sing-spoken like an old folk artist, with a slight strain on high notes, all of it delivered with an unhurried confidence. Here and on the bright, simple “Singing by the Sink,” he finds a sense of levity that’s rare in his music. This laid-back approach allows Giannopoulos’ cover of the Smashing Pumpkins’ “Luna,” a home recording from almost 10 years ago, to work as the closer. His reverb-soaked take on the Siamese Dream classic goes for a lonely, uneasy interpretation. Giannopoulos’ voice is audibly younger in this cover, recasting Billy Corgan’s serenade to a lover as a letter to his own future self. Holed away in the Catskills to revisit his roots years later, he sounds just as content with the pleasure of making quiet music in a quiet place.