Once upon a time there was a buzzy Austin rock band in every sense of the word. Their music buzzed with distortion and energy, and they were talked about all over town as the Next Big Thing (including a rave review from Pitchfork for their appearance on the Casual Victim Pile compilation). That band was Follow That Bird. And Follow That Bird is now Mirror Travel.
For all intents and purposes, Follow That Bird = Mirror Travel. They are the same three people: Lauren Green (vocals, guitar), Paul Brinkley (bass), and Tiffanie Lanmon (drums). Their circumstances, however, changed. They’re no longer signed to Matador, and they’ve grown up a bit. It’s been a long journey from their 2010 buzz to now, but Mexico is the result of all that growth, and it shows just how worthwhile patience can be.
In some ways, Mexico is very much the work of a local Austin band. The album’s first half showcases some hardcore psych-rock influences. When Green’s droning, reverb-drenched vocals enter for the first time in “I Want You to Know,” after a screeching fuzz guitar and over insistent drumming, they may as well be the next coming of the Black Angels. “I Want You to Know” ends up being one of the best psych rock songs that Austin’s produced in the last couple of years. If the album was a bunch of clones of that song, it would be enough for an adequate entry into the ever-blossoming psych rock cannon Austin has established, but Mirror Travel aren’t content to rest there.
By the time you get to “Uncharted Waters,” that psych-rock influence has melded into a dream-pop style that is remarkably indebted to the ethereal sounds of Beach House. It’s got some rough edges around the timbres, and a strong percussive presence, but it’s ultimately a beautiful ballad that shimmers as much as it scratches. A couple of songs later, “In Dreams / For Summer” recalls the bouncy but haunting work of the Cocteau Twins, simultaneously atmospheric (with its sinewy guitar lines) and rocking (with a drum beat that ebbs and flows as the song demands).
Near the end of the album, Mirror Travel offers up a re-recording of “Wooden Bones,” one of their earliest releases as Follow That Bird (dating back to 2007, I believe). Under Follow That Bird, it was hard to reconcile the light, flowing of “Wooden Bones” with the frenetic energy of “The Ghosts That Wake You” – their fantastic entry on Casual Victim Pile. This new version of “Wooden Bones” is cleaner and tighter and features more bite with its fuzzy guitar line. More importantly, though, it underscores the new identity of the band.
Mirror Travel is a band with a distinctive, but not limiting, sound. Mexico is a remarkably cohesive album – a feat even more impressive when considering how much stylistic ground Mirror Travel covers. They can sound dreamy or mean, contemplative or energetic, and it all makes sense. On “Wooden Bones,” they show they can even do it all in one track.
Mexico is a fantastic introduction to a rejuvenated Austin treasure. Be sure to check it out.
– Carter Delloro