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.
Horse Thief: Trials and Truths review – earnest, check-shirted Americana
Gwilym Mumford is Culture editor of the Guardian Saturday magazine. He also writes The Guide, a weekly pop-culture newsletter