Tired Pony - The Ghost of the Mountain (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
HAVING united to such critically-acclaimed effect on their debut album, The Place We Ran From, in 2010, super-group Tired Pony (aka Gary Lightbody, Peter Buck, Iain Archer, Richard Colburn, Scott McCaughey, Troy Stewart and producer/multi-instrumentalist Garret “Jacknife” Lee) have returned with sophomore effort The Ghost of The Mountain.
And while the first album was focused on realising Lightbody’s ambition to make an Americana album, the follow-up – recorded over a period of nine days in February/March Lee’s Topanga Canyon studio – shows a much wider range of textures and influences.
“We were trying to soak up the Topanga canyon folk vibe but also bring the discordant Krautrock and weird synth-pop sound into it too,” explains Buck.
Hence, the album glides effortlessly from soulful Americana to glam-influenced stomps to plaintive country introspection, even though it marks a continuation of the first album’s themes, or rather its two characters dealing with an unforgiveable act that has changed both of their lives.
That latter point also explains why there’s a sense of melancholy intrinsically weaving its way throughout the songs, as evidenced by lyrics like “I love you better than him” on the longing All Things At Once, while Punishment asks: “Are you waiting for love? Are you waiting for punishment?” Before then declaring: “Let’s go searching for God again…”
Indeed, Punishment forms one of the album’s highlights, as well as one of its few big sonic departures – a pulsating electronic backdrop giving a more sweeping feeling to the song that owes more to U2 at times than the Snow Patrol vibe that accompanies a lot of the tracks.
That said, with a focal point such as Lightbody’s vocals and the sense of gravitas and atmosphere this invokves, it’s hardly surprising that a lot of the songs do conform to moody values. It works for Snow Patrol and it works just as well for Tired Pony.
Hence, another highlight, title track The Ghost of the Mountain, employs Americana guitars, a foot-shuffling beat and some beguiling piano and background harmonies to striking effect, while album closer Your Way Is The Way Home marries optimism with darkness and plays well on the mix between Lightbody’s distinct style and a vocal contribution from Minnie Driver.
Another highlight is the emphatic Ravens and Wolves, which begins in almost ghostly/ethereal fashion before allowing the drums and guitars to crash in over the thrilling chorus (before stripping things back down for the verses). It’s epic and stirring.
Earlier on, I Don’t Want You As A Ghost opens proceedings amid an engaging electronic hook and a sense of hope (“I want you as you are, now some collapsed star”), while Blood stirs from the outset with its choir-like intro and slow-building guitar sound.
The Beginning of the End even hints at Goth-like tendencies in its guitar sound, while employing Stones-inspired ‘woo hoos’, and emerges as another favourite.
Put together, The Ghost of the Mountain marks a welcome comeback from Tired Pony and is shot through with songs to admire and inspire.
Download picks: The Ghost of the Mountain, All Things At Once, Punishment, Ravens and Wolves, The Beginning of the End