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Band of Horses circles greatness with ‘Mirage Rock’

The High Note with Shaun Smith every Saturday on shorenewstoday.com The High Note with Shaun Smith every Saturday on shorenewstoday.com

Band of Horses has won me over with its warmth and tone exhibited over the past three albums - and the latest, "Mirage Rock" does not depart from the blended melodies and sweet harmonies that have become the band’s signature style.

Released Sept. 18, "Mirage Rock" is the fourth album by Band of Horses and it utilizes the familiar fuzzy reverb and a stripped down quality. Both make me believe Band of Horses is among the select group of musicians today that have an authentic sound.

The indie-rock Seattle-based band led by singer Ben Bridwell made its 2006 debut with "Everything All the Time." The band has utilized various lineups over the years with the singer-songwriting guitarist always serving as anchor. The latest incarnation features Ryan Monroe, Tyler Ramsey, Bill Reynolds and Creighton Barrett.

This album was produced by the legendary Glyn Johns, who has worked with Bob Dylan, the Who, Eric Clapton, Humble Pie, The Rolling Stones and the Beatles. 

There are country influences that can be heard throughout the tracks as well as a lot of 70s roots rock. They are not quite Crosby, Stills Nash and Young but they aren’t My Morning Jacket either. Defining their sound isn’t as easy as identifying that the band does strike the right emotional chords with its lyrics and composition. 

The overall feeling of the latest by Band of Horses is muted and methodical, less free flowing than previous albums but follows the same theme as 2010's "Infinite Arms."

That previous release, "Infinite Arms," received a lot of critical praise including a Grammy nomination and “Mirage Rock” is a continuation of the maturity of Band of Horses’ musical style. The band captures my attention with slow-burning songs like "Shut-In Tourist," as well tunes with an upbeat southern flair such as "How to Live." 

The quietness is so effective on "Shut-In Tourist" that I feel the band is channeling the Beach Boys.

My favorite song on the album is "A Little Biblical," because it grows steadily for a short song that clocks in at just under three minutes. It has an immersive wall of sound that makes Bridwell's voice stand out while he sings the catchy chorus. 

"I'm old enough to know
If I'm holding on for something
I'm old enough to see
If I'm not the only one"
- "A Little Biblical"

Band of Horses knows how to produce very quite and intimate moments that carry a lot of weight. "Slow Cruel Hands of Time," is a good example of the band's style when it comes to weaving a complex message into a few minutes. The band talks about getting old just as much as Bob Dylan does these days, but it seems none of these old souls are slowing down one bit.

The opening track and single off the album, "Knock Knock," sounds like the product of an equation built around the past Band of Horses success. Crunchy vocals are just distorted enough to convey that indie-feel with a catchy hook delivered by Bridwell's falsetto, "Knocking on the doorway/look who’s coming your way/ Everything I want/ everything I need." 

 

 

"Dumpster World," is a distorted pictorial of post-modernism developed around a sticky bass line and smooth vocals. 

Band of Horses experiments with our auditory field throughout the 12 tracks (iTunes deluxe edition) ranging from compressed jams to a more progressive and open feeling in the riffs.

The acoustic guitar tracks "Everything's Gonna Be Undone" and "Long Vows," seem like distant cousins in this musical family. "Everything's Gonna Be Undone," is a powerful and almost a confessional revival song. While "Long Vows," features a beautiful country-western slide guitar that gives the song a homespun feel. 

Both tracks, and in fact most Band of Horses tracks, sound nothing like the fuel injected "Feud," that gains traction and creates a menagerie of sound that visits a musical territory previously unexplored by this band.

 Another example of experimentation is the lonely road tale "Heartbreak on the 101," which sounds like an indie-rocker's motorcycle-traveled fantasy. However the track showcases Bridwell's incredible range with what very well may be the band's most crucial instrument. 

Like every other Band of Horses album, “Mirage Rock remains listenable after multiple plays. The band produces music that is familiar yet unlike any other performing in the indie-rock circuit. Band of Horses and Jason Lytle will perform Friday, Dec. 14 at the Electric Factory, 421 North 7th Street, Philadelphia. See Ticketmaster for tickets.

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