After two albums for Sub Pop, Band of Horses made a leap towards the mainstream in 2010 on their third album (and first for a major label), Infinite Arms, which saw them upping their game in live performance and sharpening their blurry edges on record. Mirage Arms takes the process one step further. Gone is the reverb, gone are the songs about beloved dogs, and gone is the sense of a band locked away in their own world; it's hard not to think the line in the opener Knock Knock saying "a ramshackle crew has something to prove" is Ben Bridwell assessing BoH's own career after eight years. The result is a guided tour of American rock: there's the lovelorn ballad (Heartbreak on the 101); the new-wavey pop song (A Little Biblical); the boogie one (Electric Music); the big angry rocker (Feud) and all points in between. There's no gambling or experimenting here, but a ruthless and successful targeting of the band's strengths. Some might miss the old starry-eyed dreamers; other will revel in the focus and determination.
Michael Hann is a freelance writer, and former music editor of the Guardian