By Band Of Horses
For the undecided or uninitiated, Band of Horses are one of the best things to happen in music in a long time. Trust me. I've done the research so you can simply enjoy the music.
I remember telling a friend these guys were special and ones to watch around six years ago after hearing the mighty pin-drop moments of "The Great Salt Lake" and "The Funeral" on Sub Pop and Uncut comps. Their faultless output since then backs this up. Their sound has progressed from its roots on their debut album, (2006's "Everything All The Time"), through to 2010's "Infinite Arms" and it continues to flower on "Mirage Rock". The bar was raised ambitiously high on "Infinite Arms" achieving near perfection throughout and emphatically so on tracks like "NW Apartment", "Older" and "Evening Kitchen". If pressed I'd struggle to name you a bad song on that album. I thought it might be hard for them to top with this their fourth album but I needn't have worried. "Mirage Rock" points to but evolves from its predecessor in much the same way their sophomore and debut releases correspond.
If you've seen Band of Horses play live or you know the previous albums you'll know the songs can swing from rocking party starters to soft ballads and everything in between. You'll know also that the vocals are a massive part of the sound - specifically the harmonies. I can sit and listen to them all day but I couldn't tell you which sates most. There's something undeniable and uplifting in the charge of the edgier tunes that grabs me but I'm struck just as much by the smoother surfaces they affect. The track that grabbed me by the wotsits on first listen here was "Dumpster World" which manages to fold both towels into the same kitbag. This is almost a song within a song. Think "A day in the life" by The Beatles; then add Ben Bridwell's vocals, fuzzy guitars and heavy drums, and you're almost there. Personally I'd have gone with this as the lead single to show development in style and sound from "Infinite Arms" but I'm not in charge of things like that.
"Knock Knock" is the lead single taken from the album and the opening track kicking things off at a fair old lick. If you like earlier songs like "NW Apartment" and "Weed Party" then this will be right up your street. It might seem like simple, linear rock 'n roll but it grows and grows with every listen. "Electric Music" is the ultimate driving song plunging you into the heart of an authentic vintage sound from the 70s. It put me in mind of "Stay with me" by The Faces and C,S,N&Y popped into my head a couple of times of course, but this doesn't mean this isn't brilliant music. It is. Later, on "Feud", the guys crank it up again with a stomach rumbling intro and some thundering bass. Bridging the gap between the grand and the beautiful however are songs like "How to live", which has some nice, understated backing vocals to round off an almost melancholic pop vibe.
To counter the rockier moments, evocative and gentle harmonies are in abundance. "Slow cruel hands" is made for performing on a mountain top under a setting sun and the vocal work is potently simple and mesmerising in equal measure. There's something soothing too about the deep bass that adds modernity to a classic sound. "Shut-in Tourist" has an exquisite rhodes running below the main tune adding a hypnotic rhythm to Bridwell's inimitable vocals. "Long Vows" strolls along a dusty track to tell a slow love story. "Everything's gonna be undone" and Tyler (Ramsey) takes the vocal lead as the guys add more luscious harmonies to evoke a genuine bluegrass, campfire vibe. I was looking forward to a Tyler vocal on this album on the strength of "Evening Kitchen" on the last and this doesn't fall short. Not one bit. "A little biblical" stokes the fire more with perfect production across every track and vocals to match and "Heartbreak 101" finishes things off adding more feeling with timely cymbal splashes and poignant strings showing an orchestral potential for future songs.
I'll round off now by saying this will be one of the best albums you hear this year. Whether you're a fan keeping up with their releases or you find yourself hearing Band of Horses for the first time - this album is one to hear. Stream it now to see what I'm on about.