Band of Horses is still pushing their love of dusty-booted Americana through a busted guitar amp, only this time they’ve turned it up a little.
The group, which started out as another in the long line of Grandiose Rockers, seemed to find this comfy place where tradition meets innovation during the sessions for 2010′s rootsy Infinite Arms, but alas they almost got a bit too comfy. If there was a complaint to be made about their Grammy nominated project, it was that Ben Bridwell and Co. nearly got lost at times in the loamy down-home atmospherics.
The Band of Horses — from South Carolina, by way of Seattle — shake things up on the forthcoming Mirage Rock, due September 18, 2012 on Sony/Columbia, blending in a series of backyard foot-stompers with the expected melancholy polyester-era laments and plucky Appalachian curios. With that, they’re starting to feel like one of the legitimate inheritors of the mythical Americana vibe established by the Band — by turns heartfelt, loose and shaggy, then rough and tumble. A bar band with a heart of gold.
“Knock Knock,” the floor-board-rearranging rocker that opens Mirage Rock, makes that last point clear. Elsewhere, they goose up the proceedings with muscular tracks like “How To Live,” “Electric Music” and “Feud,” each with its own grizzled, hard-won beauty.
Importantly, however, Mirage Rock doesn’t represent a swerving skid too far in the other direction, either. “Slow Cruel Hands,” “Shut-In Tourist,” and “Dumpster World,” with their sweetly conveyed reverie and tandem acoustics, reanimate the twilight, end-of-the-American-century poignancy that permeated the best of 1970s country rock. “A Little Biblical” might have fit into an old AM pop rotation, too, so charming are its afternoon delights. The album-closing “Heartbreak on the 101″ rises up like a rumbling summer storm, becoming slowly engulfed in this almost mythical darkness.
In short, this is the album where the Band of Horses, at long last, put it all together: At times, they sound something like Neil Young at his most bitingly introspective (especially on the devastatingly raw “Long Vows”), then something like a long-lost jingle-jangling Burrito Brother, and yet (finally) something like their indie-rock Everything All the Time-era former selves again, too.
So, yeah, ultimately, like nothing and nobody else.