Album Review

Mirage Rock

Mirage Rock

by Band of Horses

Sony Music
7 / 10
24th September 2012

Reviewed by Matthew Cattin

Shifting naturally between heavy venue stompers and intimate narratives is a skill Band of Horses mastered in their 2006 debut Everything All the Time and have since reinforced in every record. Mirage Rock is no different, striking a practiced balance between the two. However, with three superior albums in the band’s back catalogue, Mirage Rock doesn’t offer enough substance to stand equal with previous records. Beautifully packaged and produced as it is, those aware of Band of Horses’ potential will be disappointed.

Leading single ‘Knock Knock’ sets the album’s pace at a gallop, ascending electric guitars driven by a hammering bass kick. Ben Bridwell’s bright voice is layered slightly more than necessary, limiting the songs dynamics, but he sings with conviction and aggression, spitting out his words, “if better things come to those who wait, then bitterness left for all too late”. Like ‘Laredo’ from 2010s Infinite Arms, ‘Knock Knock’ is an excellent choice of single, fast-paced and instantly likeable. It falls short of greatness however in its predictability and repetition.

The rock mood of ‘Knock Knock’ is lost to the pop-country melody of ‘How to live’, a song which could easily be mistaken for a track off The Shins’ Chutes Too Narrow. The band’s versatility shifts the vibe again in a heartbeat with the Neil Young-esque acoustic ballad ‘Slow Cruel Hands of Time’. Duelling acoustics pick at your ears from left and right and Bridwell ponders the passing of time, “two hours later I’m back in my neighbourhood where everything just stopped”. A number of the tracks draw roots from 1970s country, as with the aforementioned Young-inspired yarn. ‘Dumpster World’ echoes America’s bouncy acoustic, lazy bass and jazz-time drums before jumping into environmental grunge. “Don’t pick up that trash, put more of it on the ground”, instructs Bridwell, littering what was perhaps the best track lyrically.

‘Everything’s Gonna Be Undone’, an album highlight, sees Bridwell providing the harmony line to guitarist Tyler Ramsey’s lead vocals, much like Infinite Arms’ timeless duet ‘Evening Kitchen’. Their voices harmonise beautifully and the decision to give Tyler the spotlight, however brief, rewards the album with a welcome change of pace and feel. The album’s biggest surprise is the melancholy ‘Heartbreak on the 101’, a ballad adorned with a warm cello solo and a swooning string quartet. The rousing build-up of strings is emotional but unfortunately, a little too late to save Mirage Rock from the formulaic trap it fell into.

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