Band of Horses "Mirage Rock" Columbia

Band of Horses of 2012 is not the same band it was when they released their 2006 debut Everything All the Time. Gone is the band’s then-trademark reverb, as well as most of the original members – leaving Ben Bridwell as the group’s mastermind and primary songwriter. 2007’s aptly named Cease To Begin found a changing line-up of band members and a slant away from indie rock and more toward a country-esque sound. Guitarist Tyler Ramsey joined the band for the 2010 release Infinite Arms. It’s slow down pace garnered a wider range of fans and a Grammy Award nomination for Best Alternative Album.

Mirage Rock is something different – and yet not. The band seems to be incorporating the varied moods of their former albums, genre hopping from track to track. If you liked their country style, their indie attitude, their quieter ballads, you’ll get that here. If you’re looking for one of those sounds consistently, you’ll have to look beyond this album. The band swings so quickly between their approach that it could leave you a bit confused. For example “Everything’s Gonna Be Undone” is as country as Band of Horses gets. Immediately following that track, the band breaks into the indie rocker “Feud.” Bridwell drops his Gram Parsons imitation for falsetto. Then “Heartbreak” swings right back to the country balladeer mode. Sometimes the change up occurs within a song. “Dumpster World” begins like a soft rock ballad, aka, America, then breaks into a grinding alt-rocker.

Mirage Rock is produced by the British eteran Glyn Johns, who’s long list of credentials include The Beatles, Boy Dylan, The Band, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Clash, and Blue Oyster Cult. He’s shined up the guys sound on “Knock Knock” which is the best radio track on the disc. But it sounds like he’s also dumped his massive bag of tricks onto the studio table, which perhaps accounts for BOH’s sounding a bit schizophrenic. From CSNY-style acoustic tracks to angry rockers, this album shows a band trying to find their footing. It’s admirable that they work hard to not make the same album over and over again. But somehow Mirage Rock sounds like pieces of many different albums all at once. If you’re looking for just one aspect of The Band of Horses you’re going to have to be patient with this one. However, if you like surprises, the band will keep you guessing.

Rosemary Welsch and Brian Siewiorek