In this follow-up to 2010â€™s criminally-underrated The Place We Ran From, Tired Pony picks up telling the story of a couple attempting to escape a dark past. Donâ€™t call it a concept album though: this record is perfectly imperfect with blood and California sun.
With the wealth of talent in the bandâ€”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 Leeâ€”thereâ€™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 isnâ€™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 â€œWreckage and Bone,â€ the narratorâ€™s desperation is revealed, as is his unreliability with lines like, â€œAnd itâ€™s all in my head/Youâ€™re gone/Youâ€™ve been gone forever.â€ Likewise, â€œCrave Our Namesâ€ begins with, â€œAm I talking to myself? Because it wouldnâ€™t be the first time.â€ 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 â€œRavens and Wolves,â€ with stomping intensity and imagery reminiscent of Game of Thrones, â€œYour Way is the Way Home,â€ and the haunting title track. â€œThe Ghost of the Mountainâ€ 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 2013â€™s best offering so far.