Band of Horses – Mirage Rock
Record Label: Brown Records / Columbia Records
Release Date: September 18th, 2012
My first encounter with Seattle, WA (now Charleston, SC) outfit Band of Horses was a rather memorable one. About two years ago, their third record Infinite Arms was released, and I was at Target the weekend it was released. I wasn’t too familiar with the band whatsoever, but I decided to pick it up, and give it a shot. I was pleasantly surprised when I brought it home; it was very enjoyable indie-rock laced with folk-rock. However, the record sounded too similar, minus a few tracks, so I ultimately did not play it as much as I wanted to. I wanted to like them, but I couldn’t get into them as much as I wanted to. I’ve played it occasionally, but I was surprised (and slightly excited) when I saw they had a new record out entitled Mirage Rock. To be honest, the album art caught my eye. I really like the album art, and that’s not why I like the record, either. It seems this record has gotten a lot of backlash, and I’ll admit, this record is a bit of a grower. It’s rather different from anything I’ve heard by them before, but then again, the only thing I’ve heard is Infinite Arms. I don’t have a lot to compare this record, too, but I will say I do enjoy it. Before everyone reading this gets up in arms over it, singer Ben Bridwell said that this record is “haphazard, loose, and raw at times.” That’s ultimately the vibe I got from this record. It’s both a good thing and a band thing at the same time. This record is nowhere near perfect, but it’s still enjoyable, nonetheless.
One thing it does have going for it is the record starts off with the first single, “Knock Knock.” I heard this single a couple months back, and it was quite different from the slower, more lethargic material on Infinite Arms, but it was a bit catchier, and the tempo was faster. Bridwell’s “ooh’s” in the chorus were also a nice little touch, too. It’s one of the more enjoyable, and laid-back tracks of the record. Another thing I like about this record right off the bat is its length. There are two versions of Mirage Rock. The first is the standard version, which is about 39 minutes. The second version is a deluxe copy that features another EP about 15 – 20 minutes entitled Sonic Ranch Sessions. It features some tracks that didn’t make the album, including the title track, which is odd, but oh well. Their last record was about 45 minutes, and honestly, it dragged on a bit, which didn’t keep my interest for too long. While it is enjoyable, it just didn’t keep my interest.
As the album goes on, there are some great songs, and some rather mediocre ones; “Knock Knock” starts things off nicely, which a catchy and breezy indie-rock track. Bridwell’s voice is distinct as always, but the production on this track is rather strange, though. Next track “How to Live” is a much more serious affair, with lyrics that are quite introspective. This really contrasts with a lot of the record, because my biggest gripe with this record are the lyrics sometimes. Bridwell was right when he said the record is haphazard, because some of the lyrics just seem like they were lazily written. The music itself is rather enjoyable most of the time, and I do like how there’s more variety than on their last record, but the lyrics are rather mediocre. It’s a shame, because the lyrics on the last record were fantastic. That’s what I loved most about it. This, on the other hand, is rather disappointing in that respect. However, there are some tracks like “How to Live” that have that “Band of Horses” sound. Third track, “Slow Cruel Hands of Time” reminds me of Infinite Arms, because it’s a bit slower, and has that vibe. This is an enjoyable track altogether. Surprisingly, the first few tracks are enjoyable. The middle of the record is where things start to go south a bit.
”A Little Biblical” is a rather generic indie track with not much to offer, but next track, “Shut-In Tourist” is another enjoyable track. It’s not my favorite track, by no means, but it’s enjoyable. However, on sixth track, “Dumpster World,” this is probably my least favorite track. It starts off nicely, and it’s rather misleading, but the lyrics on this song are really weird, and not in a good way. Towards the middle, the song completely changes direction, and I don’t like it too much. It’s not awful, but it’s rather odd. Next track “Electric Music” really follows in its footsteps. This is a more “fun” song, because it doesn’t seem to have a very serious vibe to it. It’s not awful, and none of this record is really bad, it’s just rather strange. Maybe this is a record that takes a couple years to really get into, and appreciate it for what it is, but this record is different, nonetheless. There really is no denying it. While the middle of the record slows down a bit, and frankly isn’t that great, the last couple songs redeem it slightly. “Long Vows” is another track that’s slower, and is a very enjoyable track altogether. Last track, “Heartbreak On the 101” is the most interesting, because the beginning is really strange. Bridwell’s vocals are almost spoken, yet still sung. The song kicks up a minute in, but the intro is rather strange. This time, it’s a good way.
The main problem I had with this record was how strange it was, and most of it wasn’t in a very good way. Maybe it’s just that I need to listen to it more, especially within the next few years. It’s not terrible, but just really different. I think new fans won’t mind too much, because they have nothing to compare it to, and I don’t have much. Older fans may feel more jaded, and be disappointed with it. However, as far as indie records go, this is quite interesting, and ultimately enjoyable.