Two years ago, Mazes were just another band in an expansive lot of indie rock tunesmiths digging through the scraps of the lo-fi movement of the ’90s. The Manchester three-piece sounded convincing enough on their 2011 debut, A Thousand Heys, that few would have complained if they had stuck to honing their Pavement-inspired sounds. But, as it turns out, that wasn’t to be their fate. With this year’s Ores & Minerals, the band extended an olive branch to some outside influences, giving their well-tread ’90s sound some extra color. All of a sudden, threads of psychedelia and classic rock started to interweave in their warm indie rock blanket.
Continuing in that slightly more expansive vein, Better Ghosts picks up where its predecessor left off, striking an even defter balance between Mazes’ expanding range of influences. Whereas the angular art school-meets-garage rock feel of “Hayfever Wristband” would have been a curious outlier on the band’s debut, it now sounds perfectly within their scope. The same can be said for the tweaked paranoia of “Cicada”, the sardonic dig “Donovan” takes at ’60s counterculture, and the Stones boogie rock displayed on “Notes Between F & E”. But purists who favor the scrappier, rough-and-tumble Mazes of old aren’t left in the cold either. “Sand Grown” is a crude slacker rock gem on par with anything from A Thousand Heys, and “Higgs Boson” digs its heels equally deep into the lo-fi trenches.
The best moments here come when the band hops the fence and scales a bit beyond its indie homefront. Over the course of three records, Mazes have demonstrated that they’re a band willing to venture outward. Listening to Better Ghosts, it’s hard to say that adventurous spirit isn’t working in their favor.
Essential Tracks: “Hayfever Wristband”, Notes Between F&E”, and “Sand Grown”