“A ramshackle crew has something to prove,” sings shaggy-haired, big-hearted rock master Ben Bridwell at the outset of his band’s fourth studio album. He ain’t kidding. After the sculpted, reverb-drenched expanses of the band’s previous album, 2010’s Infinite Arms, Band of Horses aimed to get back to basics—and get their hands dirty. So they nabbed producer Glyn Johns (Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, The Who) out of retirement, tracked live as a band straight to analog tape and stumbled haphazardly upon what might be their greatest collection of songs to date.
Since they’re working with one of rock’s most revered producers, it’s no surprise that Mirage Rock often sounds like a badass “Best of Classic Rock” compilation: The effervescent vocal harmonies on acoustic ballad “Slow Cruel Hands of Time” recall the blue-sky ’70s-rock masters like America and Crosby, Stills & Nash; “Electric Music,” with its soulful chord changes and searing guitar solo, sounds like a lost Rolling Stones gem; the new-wave, palm-muted surge of “A Little Biblical,” calls to mind a backwoods take on The Cars.
Bridwell has never sounded more assured as a songwriter, exploring bold new ideas and penning some of his most poignant lyrics. I’m not even sure what else to say about “Shut-In Tourist” other than it’s one of the prettiest songs I’ve heard in years. It’s the kind of atmospheric ballad you’re sure Bridwell could crank out in droves on a sleep Sunday afternoon, but that doesn’t make it any less masterful. When Bridwell chirps “Morning calls us early birds / My babes and beagle still restin’ their heads,” it’s a quintessential Band of Horses moment: harnessing huge epiphanies from life’s simplest pleasures. — Paste Magazine