Band of Horses – Mirage Rock

by Suzie Conway (Communications), published September 27th 2012

Moldy | Stale | Edible | Fresh | Tasty!

Just like the Instagram-esque art gracing its cover, Band of Horse’s latest effort, Mirage Rock, seems filtered of the kind of emotion and grandiosity that has punctuated some of the band’s previous albums. Mirage Rock is pretty to look at and listen to, but the richness and boldness of instrumentation and experimentation that they’ve showed off in the past is hiding somewhere.

Band of Horses for me has always been solid and enjoyable, but they seem to have trouble distinguishing themselves from similar artists, save the anthemic singles “The Funeral” off of Everything All the Time and perhaps “No One’s Gonna Love You” from Cease to Begin. The indie world in the mid-to-late 00s was (and still is) characterized by the onslaught of folky, but not quite folk bands. And while many flocked to acts like Grizzly Bear, Fleet Foxes, and The Avett Brothers,  Band of Horses chugged along and tinkered with the genre, peppering in soul and emotion that would punch you in the gut if you let it.

Mirage Rock does almost find its voice in its less-than-polished sound. Like a vintage sweater with a few pulls, the album can do the job, but the few minor defects add a dose of character. “Electric Music” and “Everything’s Gonna Be Undone” feature some whiny guitars that are a far cry from the stronger growl that often characterizes their guitar work. Lead singer Ben Bridwell’s voice screeches and labors as it aches to be heard over the cacophony of guitars and cymbals. While that doesn’t inherently sound like a positive quality, Band of Horses’ willingness to play around with their usual sound is admirable, but still lacks a kind of overall emotional connection inherent in previous releases.

It isn’t without its positive moments. A sweet harmony and unique lyrics have become strong points for the band, and they have a few tricks of those variety up their sleeve in “Long Vows” and “Dumpster World,” respectively. These can’t make up for the big, transporting moments Band of Horses has crafted in the past, and for that,  Mirage Rock  can never feel complete. Essentially, it’s all filler, no killer, and a killer moment or two could have saved it.

Recommended Tracks: Long Vows, Heartbreak on the 101, Shut-In Tourist

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