Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Band of Horses - Mirage Rock review

On the weekend, I met up with my old friend John E, journeyman musician and musical scholar. Apart from discussing the possibility of him being my PhD supervisor (of course the rough title for the thesis is Bob Mould, punk rock and notions of difference), we were discussing how you can fall out of love with bands. For him, he fell out of love with Cat Power after You Are Free when she turned to Memphis. Despite my recommendation of how great her new record is, he isn't going there, it's too late for him, the romance is over and nothing will convince him otherwise. This got me thinking about Band of Horses.

I bought Mirage Rock a week ago and couldn't bring myself to listen to it. I loved their first two albums but for some reason the last one, Infinite Arms, really grated on me. No matter how many times I listened to it, I couldn't get into it and eventually I became weirdly offended by it. So when it came time to listen to Mirage Rock, I couldn't do it and made me think maybe my love was lost forever (also, reading a couple of dud reviews didn't help). However, after the conversation with John, I went home and put it on and much to my surprise, I think it's pretty good.

Now, let me qualify this in that I don't think that album will change your life or rock you to your core but I can't help but smile and find a lot to enjoy on this record. Somehow Band of Horses have placed themselves somewhere between being an alt country Shins and pure classic rock. If that sounds like your idea of hell, there is nothing here for you. But if you've ever sung along to America's Horse with no name without shame when it's come on the radio, that might give you some idea where some of this is coming from.

I think the first single Knock Knock was done a disservice by it's Wes Anderson-esque video which I found distracting and unnecessary (it's a different version from the one posted above). Just listening to it on headphones make its obvious why it's the single, just a good time sing along. A Little Biblical and Feud are two excellent rockers that harken back to the more expansive sound of the earlier records while Dumpster World is kind of goofy but fun nonetheless. Slow Cruel Hands of Time and Heartbreak on the 101 are two exquisite songs of heartbreak and loss that resonate deeply and are the emotional high points of the album. The Neil Young-ism of Long Vows is pretty pronounced but it is ultimately fun.

Maybe it was only me who had fallen off the Bandwagon (oh snap - puntastic) but this album has a really lovely energy to it. While it is often unrepentantly familiar and derivative, there is something incredibly joyous about this album. The love is back it would seem.


1 comment:

  1. hypothesis: compare the mastering/sound of the previous album with this one? It's a subtle thing, but some discs are mastered so badly (usually: so loudly) that all the dynamics are lost, or the bitrate is really rough and crass. There are some albums I don't want to listen to on disc because they're just too brittle, they're inhuman to listen to. Ears need fields and valleys of space to listen to, natural sonics ebbs & flows, not infinitely sharp digital shards. Maybe do a headphone comparison...?