Mirage Rock

After their two releases on Sub Pop, Band of Horses were truly on top of the indie-rock heap, carving out an ardent fan base with their earnest, vaguely twangy balladry with the reverb cranked up to 11. Their longing, starry-eyed approach to songwriting (see favorites “The Funeral” and “Is There a Ghost,” for starters) struck an emotional chord with many a listener. But Band of Horses also seemed cornered in their own niche. When they forayed into grandiose Southern rock with 2010’s Infinite Arms, critics largely panned them for abandoning their signature sound. Likewise, Mirage Rock isn’t a return to the early material—if anything, they push forward with more sticky-sweet, up-tempo Americana (“Knock, Knock” and “Electric Music”) than ever before. Not that frontman Ben Bridwell has completely forgone crooning mournfully about lost loves and small towns: The close vocal harmonies on the folk-driven “Everything is Gonna Be Undone” are sure to tug at some heartstrings. It may not be their most emotionally impactful album, but at least Mirage Rock proves Band of Horses haven’t quite exhausted their reserves of whimsy and wonder.