Band of Horses gallops into new sonic arena
Album Review | 3 out of 5 stars
Published: Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 07:10
A huge change in sound and genre are immediately apparent during a first listen to Band of Horses’ new album, “Mirage Rock.” In contrast to the fresh, raw sound of Band of Horses’ first album, “Everything All the Time” (2006), “Mirage Rock” will surprise its listeners with its more mature and developed sound. For listeners who enjoyed the band’s previously natural and mild tunes, the new album might be a little disappointing. However, for those who are interested in the band’s stylistic development, “Mirage Rock” will be a great experience.
From the opening song, the band signals that this album marks an evolution. Compared to Band of Horses’ distinctive indie tracks previously produced, such as “The Funeral” and “Part One,” the opening song of “Mirage Rock” is instantly recognizable as mainstream rock. With the help of its new producer, Glyn Johns, Band of Horses has started exploring more elements of bluegrass and country as well. The country sound is much more obvious in the album’s second song, “How to Live.” The third track, “Slow Cruel Hands of Time,” features a combination of the band’s old and new sounds. The acoustic song is simple but beautiful, and its harmonies recall the raw, natural style that Band of Horses is famous for. The track also hints at the band’s new bluegrass influence.
At some points, the album seems to represent the band members’ collective indecision. While some songs are very different from the old style of Band of Horses, the rest of them feel as raw and melodic as any of Band of Horses’ old material. The contrast between the song “A Little Biblical” and its follower, “Shut−in Tourist,” is a good example of this indecisiveness. While “A Little Biblical” feels like mainstream rock, “Shut−in Tourist’s” simplicity and haunting melodies immediately remind the listener of the band’s old style.
With its earlier music, Band of Horses managed to engage with its listeners emotionally and touch them with the beauty of its lyrics and gentle melodies. “Long Vows” and “Heartbreak on the 101” are the most emotionally affecting songs on this new album. With this pair of songs, Band of Horses manages to create the same emotional effect with a totally different style. In “Long Vows”, while the melody is calm and soothing, the lyrics are reminiscent of the numbness of prolonged pain: “No one’s going to show you the way/when it gets cold/you can find yourself baby/back in the hole from which you came.”
The band appropriately closes “Mirage Rock” with the album’s most touching song. “Heartbreak on the 101” is influenced by the new style of the band, and its smooth, calm sound is far removed from the band’s previous rawness. However, it reminds us of the old Band of Horses with its immensely natural and sincere melodies and lyrics. Beautiful violin solos and clear, high notes in the chorus are very clear and effective.
With its new spin in genre and style, Band of Horses’ new album provides something a little different than what their old fans are used to. Although this change is a great opportunity for band members to expand themselves, fans of the band’s rawness and naturalness should be wary of disappointment.