Band of Horses will release their fourth album, Mirage Rock, next Tuesday. But, you can listen to the entire album right now. That's the good news. The bad news is the album as a whole, is a big disappointment.
The band worked with legendary producer, Glyn Johns, and while the intention might have been to bring in some classic rock elements, the result is misguided and mediocre at best. Glyn Johns has worked with some of the best artists (The Who, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin), and it feels like the band thought his reputation was enough. They might have even heard Ryan Adam's brilliant Ashes & Fire, which Johns produced last year, and thought he could do it one more time.
But, a producer is only as good as the material he has on front of him, and a handful of songs come off as first-draft demos. It's not all bad, just not quite as cohesive as you would expect from a band known for a certain sound and a producer who has captured some of the greats at their best.
I love the strut at the beginning and end of How To Live, it has an Allman Brothers flare, and more than likely the best example of John's production skills. Ben Bridwell's voice has always had a bit of strain and wear. Couple that with the pragmatic lyrics and you have a real, emotional connection.
A Little Biblical, is another highlight. Direct and to the point, with the best refrain of the entire album, you'll find yourself humming the melody and tapping your feet. Shut-In Tourist, might be the only song they test the waters and stretch out. They don't wander off too much, but it's a hint of what they are capable of.
Dumpster World, starts off a dreadful second half. To the casual fan, the rest of the album seems pretty generic. Even worse, I doubt actual fans can find a song they'd want to hear in concert. I predict a lot of bathroom breaks if the guys load upcoming shows with the new material.
The most baffling song is closer, Heartbreak 101. I still don't know if I even like it, or it's just a welcomed break from a five-song string of bad. With spoken word lyrics closer to Bruce Springsteen meets Tom Waits, and strings, I'll take what I can get.