Americana is a crowded field these days, but Texas-by-way-of-Oklahoma outfit Horse Thief did enough to stand out with their 2014 debut Fear In Bliss. With singer Cameron Neil’s off-kilter yet heartfelt vocals, it brought hints of something wild-eyed and psych-tinged: think the big-sky balladeering of Band of Horses rubbing up against the freak-folk of early Animal Collective. It’s disappointing to report then, that for their follow-up, Horse Thief have dialled down the unusual in favour of a sound that’s more MORish. Trials and Truths finds the band aiming for the stadium territory of the likes of Kings of Leon. It is loaded with earnest, check-shirted songs about mountain towns and lost love. It’s tidily and tastefully put together, with all the trappings and affectations present and correct. But – a few highlights apart (the funky, stop-start Difference; the doleful soul of recent single Drowsy) – it feels leaden and predictable. At a time when artists such as William Tyler are driving Americana into fascinating and strange territory, this is too timid by half.
Gwilym Mumford is Culture editor of the Guardian Saturday magazine. He also writes The Guide, a weekly pop-culture newsletter