Band of Horse’s album ‘hugely disappointing’
Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 23:09
When William Shakespeare said “Expectation is the root of all heartbreak,” I’m pretty sure he did not intend for me to apply it to a 21st century indie rock band’s disappointing album. That said, expectation is truly the root of all heartbreak, especially musical heartbreak. I discovered Band of Horses during my senior year of high school on a particularly rainy, downright depressing sort of day and completely fell in love. Their signature swell of dark yet smooth sound and Ben Bridwell’s dreamy voice on “No One’s Going to Love You,” “Our Swords” and “Is There a Ghost” quickly climbed up my personal charts and became hits on indie charts worldwide. That said, this unique and well-loved style is not thoroughly represented on their newest and fourth album, “Mirage Rock,” which leads to a hugely disappointing album.
Band of Horses’ first album, “Everything All the Time,” started their popularity as a chilled out indie rock band focused on mellow and melodic harmonies, haunting vocals, and ambiguously pessimistic lyrics. Bridwell established his serene and airy voice as the unexpected softness above the strong bass lines and rich melodies. The second and third albums “Cease to Begin” and “Infinite Arms,” respectively, continued to build upon the foundation set by Everything All the Time, by adding touches of country and baroque music to the mix. In due fashion, the fourth album keeps building, but it’s almost as if the builders decided to stop building for a time, skip a few stories of the building, and resume construction. “Mirage Rock” does not fit well with the previous three albums and the changes in style make the effort unfocused and unexpectedly disappointing.
Take track “How to Live.” The song is a peppy, country-style ballad that seems to belong in an Toby Keith album, not a Band of Horses album. The lyrics are a giant departure from the last album, which centers on mortality and death, almost preaching the wonders of “this great big world.” Yes, the song is cute and I’m definitely going to play it on Saturday morning around the dorm room, but it’s not Band of Horses anymore. There is none of that subdued happiness and energetic pessimism present in the previous albums; instead songs fall to either the happy or unhappy polarity. Similarly, track “Dumpster World” starts and ends sounding exactly like “Horse with No Name” by Neil Young and develops into a strong rock anthem with petulant lyrics that frankly made me cringe. The transition back and forth from passive folksy jam to rock threw me and struck me as uncoordinated and unprofessional. The rest of the album falls into these two categories; the songs are hollow shells of vague country inspired songs, without the bass line and strong guitar parts that made similar songs on other albums works of genius creativity.
Maybe I should lower my expectations, but I really thought Band of Horses was going in a great direction. Alas, as the band would say, they have succumbed to the snare of senioritis.