Perched somewhere between indie, desert rock, and ragged Americana, Way Out West is King Ropes’ fourth record, and finest to date. At the center of it all is Dave Hollier, a gifted lyrical songwriter at the top of his game, surveying a land haunted by doomed relationships and hypocrite ideologues in his signature quivering voice, which falls somewhere between The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle and Silver Jews/Purple Mountains’ beloved David Berman.
For King Ropes, Way Out West, slated for a June 11, 2021 release date, is more than just an album title — it’s a guiding principle. The Bozeman-based band has carved out a distinct sound that evokes the vast openness of where they’re from. After settling in Montana in 2017 following extensive stints in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, Hollier recruited an inner circle of West Coast musicians to record and tour with, notably bassist/guitarist Ben Roth (Oberhofer/BOD) and drummer Jeff Jensen, both of whom play on the new record. Recorded during the pandemic, Way Out West is as thematically heavy as anything King Ropes has done.
Some of the songs are about accepting the chaos, others more fed up with it — but it’s not an isolation album. The way these songs swagger and shake has the unmistakable feel of musicians sharing energy together in a room. There’s a palpable twang in Hollier’s voice, and an irreverent glint, even in the bleakest of times. The album is full of open spaces and jagged edges—from “A Loser and a Jerk,” with its brooding feedback moans, to the cathartic opener “Big Man on the TV,” with its mangled arpeggios and visions of a broke rodeo flailing amidst “the great wide open.” Guitars scrape and whine. Amps rumble. Rickety pianos rattle in and out of tune. Like the Treasure State itself, nothing is too refined.