Glyn Johns has a pretty incredible resume'. He's worked with Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, the Who, Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton, and several other rock legends; for this reason, it's not surprising that a band would want him producing their album. For Band of Horse's fourth full-length album, the band feels a little looser than they have before - they feel comfortable and at ease. MIRAGE ROCK feels like an ode to older times: it references the Americana of Neil Young, Tom Petty, and the Eagles. Band of Horses doesn't ape these influences though - instead they let those bands' sounds seep into their own.
The lead single, "Knock Knock" showcases the band at their loosest on the album - it's a solid, catchy song, and most importantly, it sets a great beginning for MIRAGE ROCK. Aside from "Knock Knock" there are moments on the album when it feels like the band is trying to reclaim their rougher edges: "Feud" and "A Little Biblical" are a few of these moments. The song is followed by "How to Live," a more Southern-based rocker; it's supported by strong melodies and instrumentation, and the song is unafraid to touch on typical Southernisms. "Slow Cruel Hands of Time" is the first ballad-based song on the album, and similar to "How to Live," its lyrics are inspired by Southern-Americana imagery - it's a song feels close to something special, but it never quite gets there. "Shut-In Tourist" is a more psychedelic detour, and while some listeners may find its repetition annoying, it works for me. Band of Horses references Neil Young on "Dumpster World," a more socially-conscious song (with very on-the-nose lyrics) that erupts into distortion midway through. Bridwell retreats from his Young-esque croon for about half of the album's finale, "Heartbreak on the 101." The song is marked by acoustics and more orchestral strings; the ballad works well, and it's a good closer for MIRAGE ROCK.
This album follows the progression that band started by adding members Tyler Ramsey, Bill Reynolds, and Ryan Monroe on INFINITE ARMS. I don't want to say that I enjoyed MIRAGE ROCK the least of Band of Horses' discography, but I will say that I prefer their other albums more. There are a few songs here that fall flat for me, but for the most part, the album works well as a whole. Listeners who didn't enjoy the band's previous work probably won't be turned on to them here, but I think that most fans of the band will enjoy what Bridwell and company have to offer on this release. Essential tracks to sample/download: "Knock Knock," "Heartbreak on the 101" and "How to Live."
(Additional Release Information:)
The above review covers the full album MIRAGE ROCK, but there are a few other songs for which to look out. The song "Ego Nightmare" can be found on iTunes - it serves as a bonus track on the album, but it can be purchased separately. The deluxe edition of this album comes with an additional EP: SONIC RANCH SESSIONS. This EP is 5 tracks long, and it includes songs that were recorded during a session in a studio in Texas (including the album's title track). Here are those songs: