Band of Horses’ fourth album, Mirage Rock, is aptly titled as the new pop sound the group experiments with is a mirage of their former selves. Mirage Rock is their second offering after being picked up by a major music label and seems to shed a lot of the melancholy and sweeping harmonies that gave them indie street cred. The result is a mix of songs trying at once to appeal to the indie crowd and to mainstream radio, but ultimately getting lost in the middle.
Album opener, “Knock Knock,” has similar instrumentation and sound as The Shins. It’s upbeat and for longtime fans of Band of Horses, interesting and different enough to draw you in. However, moving into “How to Live,” “Slow Cruel Hand of Time,” and “A Little Biblical,” that initial interest wanes into tedium. The songs are more shallow and formulaic than the majestic harmonies and emotional strife on Everything All the Time.
Their strength on this album lies in the more aggressive songs. “Knock Knock,” “Dumpster Music,” “Electric Music” and “Feud” all feature prominent, hard-rocking guitar riffs and singer Ben Bridwell’s distinctive wails. These songs are sprinkled amongst the more folksy pop songs comprising the rest of the album. This leads to a disjointed album in which you can never quite figure out what the band’s message is or where this is going. The one song that comes close to capturing their former magic, “Heartbreak on the 101,” fittingly closes out the album and finally hits the emotional connection the rest of the album is lacking. This song is simple in it’s arrangement and soulful in its vocals.
Mirage Rock is a largely forgettable album from a band capable of great things. Here’s hoping that Band of Horses is able to find its voice once again.