Right place, right time sometimes when it comes to discovering music these days. So it was late night about a week ago when I discovered Tired Pony – a supergroup of sorts. The group is made up of Gary Lightbody (Snow Patrol), Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey (REM), Jacknife Lee (producer), Richard Colburn (Belle & Sebastien), Iain Archer and Troy Stewart. The Ghost of The Mountain was released two weeks ago and is actually the groups sophomore album.
As its pastoral album cover would suggest, the opening track, ‘I Don’t Want You as a Ghost,’ floats in on a simple organ line, a few strands of guitar and then the twist – a rhythm section rooted in R&B. Gary Lightbody’s voice is the safety-pin that holds the whole thing together. It’s also his best lyric writing to date.
‘I’m Begging You Not to Go,’ has its roots based more solidly in country and Scott McCoughey dots the primarily acoustic track with strains of Nashville.
‘Blood,’ is a nominee for one of the best songs of the year. It closely resembles an avenue Snow Patrol would go down. A marching beat and pounding keys on the piano drive the track. An excellent chorus ‘It’s not enough until it shakes/It’s not a love until it’s lost/it’s not a heart until it aches/it’s not a line until it’s crossed’ and a fantastic line ‘This is me – a question mark in human form,’ highlight the lyricism here.
‘The Creak in The Floorboards,’ is a song of yearning and wouldn’t be out of place on any 80’s romantic comedy, right down to the keyboard’s that drive the underbelly of the tune or the outro vocal duets between Lightbody and either mainstay Miriam Kaufmann or actress Minnie Driver.
‘All Things All At Once,’ proclaims ‘I will love you better than him,’ but rambles in that rumination. ‘Wreckage and Bone,’ once again showcases the even keel of Lightbody’s vocal capabilities, but is more bone without meat to it, upon repeated listens.
There is a definite lo-fi feel to ‘The Beginning of The End,’ in the verses reminiscent of sub pop bands who’re trying to sound a lot like Sebadoh. The chorus is all rugged Snow Patrol, though – replete with the lyric ‘if this is the beginning of a new love/why am I terrified?’ At the midway point of this album, there’s no denying the comparison’s to Lightbody’s main meal ticket. For fans of the former, if you’re looking for a more rural-leaning, acoustic driven Snow Patrol, they’ve been found on this record.
Some songs come in and out of consciousness quickly. ‘Carve Our Names,’ barely makes a name for itself before it’s gone. ‘Ravens and Wolves,’ is aided by Lightbody’s wounded intonation and a driving chorus – the foreboding story that is hinted at in the verses is captivating.
For every couple of songs that diverge down a different sonic path, there is a musical sensibility that always seems to drive tunes back closer to Snow Patrol’s successes. ‘Punishment,’ again is something that would be picked up by the former band and bandied about on one of their own albums.
The album closes with its title track which reaches for hometown ballpark fences with backing choir-like choruses and lyrics that tell a spurned lover ‘you are the start/but you’re the sweetest bitter end I could have hoped for/don’t look for me/just keep your blue eyes on the road away from here…’ On ‘Your Way is the Way Home,’ in the record’s final moments, Lightbody proclaims ‘My stampeding heart is lost/like the compass you always were/I can see in the thawing frost/that your way is the way home…’ Miriam Kauffmann gets the final coda and by doing so, saves the sincerity of the sentiment.
Lightbody is sharing his love of the American heartland and all the possibilities that could be musically suggested from it, while keeping one foot firmly rooted in pop sensibility. It’s a formula that’s both in progress and developing at a steady pace from this troupe. A fun listen.