Album Review: Tired Pony – The Ghost of the Mountain

By on Monday, 19th August 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

Tired Pony Ghost of the Mountain coverInternational rock supergroup Tired Pony, headed by fearless leader Gary Lightbody, have left behind the gloomy ‘Northwestern Skies’ of Portland where they recorded ‘The Place We Ran From’ in 2010. Having settled themselves this past winter in the Topanga Canyon, California, studio of producer Garrett ‘Jacknife’ Lee, the band are now set to release their deceptively bright and mellow-sounding second album, titled ‘The Ghost of the Mountain’.

While ‘The Ghost of the Mountain’ was recorded as quickly and spontaneously as its predecessor, the result this time around is more polished and purposeful. The music on ‘The Place We Ran From’ felt slightly out of focus, as its lyrics explored Lightbody’s pair of fictional protagonists. ‘The Ghost of the Mountain’ has the premeditated lyrical intention of developing a tragic plot line based on those characters, and Tired Pony’s musical approach is suitably more deliberate.

The album’s first single ‘All Things All At Once’ is a neat segue from past to present, as it continues in the Americana-style vein of ‘The Place We Ran From’. The rest of the album ventures into different musical territory, making effective use of the band members’ multi-instrumental talents and the sweet female backing harmonies provided by Minnie Driver, Kim Topper, and Bronagh Gallagher. Opening tracks ‘I Don’t Want You As a Ghost’ and ‘I’m Begging You Not to Go’ are mellow, laid-back tunes that set up the juxtaposition between their music and the gravity of their lyrics.

The strongest track on the album is ‘The Creak in the Floorboards’, which originated during the band’s initial touring run in support of ‘The Place We Ran From’. Performing the song during a live show at Irving Plaza, NYC, in October 2010, Lightbody described it as “hot off the press,” having been written that very day. Clearly three years of mulling it over have benefited the song, which in the album version is more restrained than its live predecessor, with more subtle instrumentation and backing vocals added to sweeten the mix. Its lyric “you’re the raven, I’m the wolf” foreshadows a later track, cementing the idea of the songs revolving around a literary plot and set of characters.

Lightbody’s lyrics on ‘The Ghost of the Mountain’ alternate between catchy, straightforward choruses and ambiguous metaphor, as in the temporally flexible ‘Wreckage and Bone’ (“Let me live here with you years ago…We can count the years from then to now”). His typically awkward lyric delivery is smoothed over by lilting melodies and relaxed rhythms, which allow for more flexibility in his singing. His voice is light and easy throughout, most notably in the extended chorus at the end of ‘Blood’.

The main criticism of any Tired Pony album will be that it sounds like Snow Patrol ‘Lite’. This superficial criticism, based on Lee’s production and Lightbody’s unique lyrical style isn’t entirely unfounded. ‘The Beginning of the End’ has a synthetic rock sound and an anthemic chorus that could easily have fitted on to Snow Patrol’s last album, despite Iain Archer’s vocals on the verses. But in general, these are not the stadium-style singalongs of Snow Patrol, and in my opinion, that comparison marginalizes the sizeable contributions of the other band members.

What began as something of a lark for Lightbody and R.E.M.’s Peter Buck has grown into a band to be taken seriously on its own merits. Supergroups of rock come and go, but if ‘The Ghost of the Mountain’ is any indication, Tired Pony is one that could potentially have some staying power, despite the nomadic nature of its members. For fans who may have doubted that this second album would ever come into existence, ‘The Ghost of the Mountain’ is certainly worth their continued interest.

9/10

‘The Ghost of the Mountain’ is out in the UK today (19 August) via Fiction Records. Its American release follows on 1 October on Lightbody’s own label Heaneyville. Tired Pony will perform live on 14 September at London Barbican. Ticket information can be found at the band’s official Web site.

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7 Responses

12:02 pm
19th August 2013

New post: Album Review: Tired Pony @TiredPony – The Ghost of the Mountain: http://t.co/WicPWvlPrD

12:06 pm
19th August 2013

RT @tgtf: New post: Album Review: Tired Pony @TiredPony – The Ghost of the Mountain: http://t.co/WicPWvlPrD

2:14 pm
19th August 2013

RT @tgtf: New post: Album Review: Tired Pony @TiredPony – The Ghost of the Mountain: http://t.co/WicPWvlPrD

5:34 pm
19th August 2013

@garysnowpatrol It’s a beauty, too. Congrats! http://t.co/72ncCJrZSH

8:16 pm
19th August 2013

@Polarpatrol Me too! Reviewed it here. http://t.co/XPUCVzPXR6

8:20 pm
19th August 2013

RT @VocalicPage: @Polarpatrol Me too! Reviewed it here. http://t.co/XPUCVzPXR6

[…] band’s new album ‘Ghost of the Mountain’ in America. (Read Carrie’s review of the new album here.) It had been billed as an acoustic set with only about half of the members in attendance, but it […]

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