After a tenuous self-production effort on 2010′s glacial Infinite Arms, Band of Horses lowers its harmony-soaked hooves back onto solid ground for its fourth, and rawest release to date. Mirage Rock finds the Ben Bridwell-led outfit, working with acclaimed producer Glyn Johns, returning to its unfiltered roots; these decidedly more freewheeling cuts were recorded entirely live and analog. It’s a refreshing exhale for the South Carolina crew – even Bridwell himself called the band’s last effort felt “overthought.”
Having shed the tendency toward excessive studio tinkering and overwrought production, Bridwell now finds the necessary headroom for his brand of contemplation: over galloping guitars on “Knock Knock” the singer opines that “better things come to those who wait”; later during the Springsteen-ian “Slow Cruel Hands of Time,” the bearded bard pines for the simplicity of youthful abandon; at album’s end, during the twang-y “Long Vows,” he assures himself that “everything will fall into place.” But it’s when the singer steps outside his head that the album flourishes: on “Dumpster World,” Bridwell fantasizes about getting high, freeing the jails and pleasing the madman trapped between his ears. “Bust out the drugs!” he exalts in a moment of clarity, consequences be damned.