Mojave 3 – Excuses for Travellers

Mojave 3
Excuses for Travellers

Apparently, there has been a big revival in fans of Nick Drake, the British folk singer from the 1960’s, because of brief clips in Volkswagon commercials and indie films. That sounds like the perfect excuse for bands that play a similar style of melancholy and restrained folk-pop to break out into the mainstream. And if any band deserves such notice, it would have to be Mojave 3.
Mojave 3 has been described as falling somewhere between the folk, country, and pop categories. Their songs tended toward the slow-core side, and that’s continued on their latest and far best release to date. Yet there’s also much more of a decidedly pop feel here, allowing the country sounds to be just that: a semblance of the band’s sound and not the defining characteristic. Lead by Neil Halstead’s Drake-ish soft and often melancholy vocals, the band combines slow rhythms, simple yet lovely structures, country sounding guitars and a firm grasp of melody into one amazing and beautiful album.
The album starts with one of the best tracks, “In Love with a View,” a wonderful track that flows along at a slow pace. Warbling guitars give it that country sound, but jarring electric guitars add an edge, and Halstead’s voice as well as the more flowing guitar sound even give it a sort of classic rock feel. I get a feel of early Neil Young in the soft acoustic guitar on “Trying to Reach You,” and the epic, 7-plus-minute “My Life in Art” is so simply beautiful, with Halstead singing in a hushed, sentimental whisper, that you never notice its length. “Return to Sender” is my favorite track here, decidedly more poppy although not too fast. The addition of piano and a more up-beat rhythm, as well as a singable chorus, makes this one so damn good! “She Broke You So Softly” is typical Mojave 3: a slower, softer song with a heavy emphasis on Halstead’s deeper, melancholy vocals.
The band uses some different instruments, such as organ, piano, harmonica and more, to give their songs a slightly different feel and to spruce them up from the languor that befalls many slow-core bands. “When You’re Drifting” uses trumpet to that affect and also a more up-beat chorus with multiple vocals. Songs like “Anyday Will be Fine” and the especially Drake-ish “Always Right” use a much more up-beat and powerful poppy sound, both with a decidedly 60’s feel, to turn up the energy and add more energy to the mix, and the band sounds perfectly at home with this faster, completely un-country sound. “Got My Sunshine” also uses a lot of trumpet and backing vocals, giving it something of a gospel feel, hands-down the most pretty song on the album. “Bringing Me Home” features Rachel Goswell on vocals, and her sweet voice adds a different feel to this very pretty, subtly poppy song.
I never really thought of Mojave 3 as a country band, but the twangy guitars and more folk-inspired structure has lead many people to label them as such. I suspect that will change on this album, as the band incorporates much more varied instrumentation and a much more full, more pop sound. These songs are full and rich and quite lovely, definitely up a notch from their more slow-core past. It’s a beautiful album and one that was likely released at the perfect time.