Band of Horses are a very organic band. There is a sense of carelessness in their songs – not craziness or wildness but a feeling of nonconformity and freedom. It seems as if Band of Horses are making music purely for themselves without a buyer in mind, and that’s great. But sometimes, that lack of intention can turn into a lack of direction. Mirage Rock lacks direction. Band of Horses sounds lost.
What probably led to this confusion was the downward slide that the band seems to be going through. Their first two albums, Everything All the Time and Cease to Begin were critically acclaimed. Their third, Infinite Arms, not so much. So where should they have gone from there? Go back to the trademark sound of the first two albums? Try something new altogether? Or, do what they did, which was oddly attempt to do both.
Mirage Rock starts off different. “Knock Knock,” the album’s opening track and first single is beachier and grungier than the average Band of Horses song. Instead of being perfectly soft and smooth, there are moments of harsh drums and grinding vocals.
But then, the usual sound comes in. Once again, let me reiterate that I love that sound, but even the best bands need to have some variety. The album is hazy and folky, but lacks the passion and soul necessary to keep it afloat. Think back to about half way into Cease to Begin’s “Is There A Ghost” when the entire song just explodes into fireworks and Ben Bridwell belts out, “When I lived alone / Is there a ghost in my house?” That’s what Mirage Rock needs. Explosions. Fire. Soul.
“Slow Cruel Hands of Time” is the typical Band of Horses song. It’s gorgeous but not memorable. “How To Live” has potential, with a pulsing drum beat but never reaches a pinnacle. Throughout, it seems almost as if Band of Horses is lost.
For Band of Horses fans, Mirage Rock will suffice. Regardless of how lackluster the lyrics or overall sound of a song is, simply hearing Bridwell’s voice will make you smile. But for those less familiar, skip this one.