Tired Pony: The Ghost of the Mountain
In this follow-up to 2010’s criminally-underrated The Place We Ran From, Tired Pony picks up telling the story of a couple attempting to escape a dark past. Don’t call it a concept album though: this record is perfectly imperfect with blood and California sun.
With the wealth of talent in the band—Gary Lightbody (Snow Patrol), Peter Buck (R.E.M.), Scott McCaughey (The Young Fresh Fellows), Richard Colburn (Belle and Sebastian), Troy Stewart (The Windsor Player), Iain Archer, and Jacknife Lee—there’s no need for embellishment. Acoustic guitar is the melodic thread to hold the record together, but more unconventional instruments like moog, glockenspiel, drum machine, and thumb piano add flourishes that only become more interesting on repeated listens. This Americana sound isn’t afraid to lean electro.
Lyrically, much of the material revolves around fractured love. As the album title suggests, ghosts are a major theme of the album. In “Wreckage and Bone,” the narrator’s desperation is revealed, as is his unreliability with lines like, “And it’s all in my head/You’re gone/You’ve been gone forever.” Likewise, “Crave Our Names” begins with, “Am I talking to myself? Because it wouldn’t be the first time.” Delicate backing vocals from Minnie Driver seem almost like a hallucination of the lover who has been lost and found again. Driver, as well as Bronagh Gallagher and Kim Topper, give voice to a character beyond the reach of the lyrics.
Key tracks are “Ravens and Wolves,” with stomping intensity and imagery reminiscent of Game of Thrones, “Your Way is the Way Home,” and the haunting title track. “The Ghost of the Mountain” not only has beautifully tragic lyrics as the main character dies, but the arrangement is stunning for an album recorded in under two weeks. This is 2013’s best offering so far.