Band Of Horses – [Album]

Monday, 17 May 2010

Sometimes a band will start to generate excitement upon the very announcement of a forthcoming record; the stars will have aligned just right and, when the record in question does come out, it is to a legion of people that are literally standing and waiting with open arms for it. That's actually a tenuous situation to be in with great expectation comes the possibility for great disappointment and, on those occasions when the hype machine has started already humming and the product that comes is even a hair less than what every fan expects, the loss of faith and disappointment that the band can instill in its' fans may be a blow from which they never recover. That was the worry when Band Of Horses signed on with Sony Music not so long ago; upon the signing, the band was regarded as a very good, but very small band that had the adulation of its' fan base locked, but no one was sure how far past that it could hope to go and, if they got too ambitious, the whole thing could just collapse.

Happily, no one could possibly find fault with Infinite Arms, Band Of Horses' major label debut.

Infinite Arms opens precisely how the band's fans might have hoped it would; with methodical and dazzling ease, “Factory” slides its' way into listeners' subconscious, almost like a dream into their imaginations. With understated strings added to convey just the right amount of anthemia, singer Benjamin Bridwell walks out onto the flat plains of the southwest, looks up on a cloudless night in that desolate nowhere and writes out some hopes, some dreams and, with a little imagination, just the possibilities of that giant empty space. It's beautiful, it's hypnotizing and, by the second verse when he murmurs, “Later on when I was standing by the snack machine/ I thought about you in a candy bar,” he's got his audience sold; the middle of nowhere and the doldrums of every day and everywhere are just magic and Bridwell has everyone listening in hook, line and sinker.

The golden ticket on Infinite Arms is simple: when you're lonely and just desperate enough to look hard, there can be magic in anything and even the smallest instance can take your breath away.

Examples of that magical minutiae congregate in each of Infinite Arms' thirteen tracks, but they present themselves at the most unusual times – the starburst guitar effect at the beginning of “Compliments,” that extended minor chord combined with the doubled vocal line in “Laredo,” the sighed vocal opening of “Blue Beard” that leads into a Beach Boys-by-way-of-Cowboy Junkies ballad – designed to reach out and make listeners gasp “wow” and capture their imagination before the band pulls them in to win their hearts with some of the finest alt-country songwriting Band Of Horses has ever produced. Their cross between the spectacular and and the incredibly simple is brilliant and solid here, and listeners will find themselves looking up in wonder to see if they can find the same possibilities the band has through songs like “Back Home” (which borrows the chord progression from the intro to “Space Oddity,” but the band never lets it leave the ground here), the title track, “Older” and “For Annabelle” and take them home for themselves. In these songs and more, Band Of Horses corrals everyone – from space cadets like David Bowie and The Flaming Lips to dyed-in-the-wool terrestrials like Jeff Tweedy and Tim Buckley – into the band's own arena, gets them all to feed at the same trough and distills all of their sensibilities down into a series of incredible moments. In that way, Infinite Arms is a fantastic work of craft that deserves major label distribution so everyone can have the chance to hear it, and deserves all the praise it will certainly draw as the triumph it is.



Band Of Horses – "Compliments" – Infinite Arms

Band Of Horses – "Laredo" – Infinite Arms

Infinite Arms
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .


Band of Horses – [Album]

Thursday, 13 September 2007

I can’t quite put my finger on it—I don’t know exactly what it is—but for some reason, growing up soaking up Southern Californian sun rays made me very, very musically stubborn; and if labels mean anything to you, I sneered against anything remotely referred to as “Country Western.” Call it coming of age, that inevitable right of passage, call it whatever you like, but I feel as if I’ve gone soft in my old age (I’m 23; hey that’s so old in the fashion industry), but I’ve also come to realize how contradictory those childhood preferences were. When it comes to the freewheeling and dramatic musical grammar of Seattle’s Band of Horses, their incredibly expansive sense of rock ‘n’ roll Americana makes me realize how hypocritical my sunbeam-sing-along stylistic inclinations were. Following their stunning debut Everything All the Time that was released in March of last year, the boys of Band of Horses do no wrong with the startlingly beautiful Cease to Begin.

If you’re specifically a stickler for bedazzling and extensive lyrical journeys, kindly leave your predilections at the door. Don’t get me wrong, but clearly the beauty of introductory “Is There A Ghost” is its enchanting and whirling take on hypnotic repetitiveness. A twinkling guitar melody guides an enthralled flight of jam-like proportions. Slowly it tumble-weeds into rotating delight, but lyrically, it never quite takes off to spin wildly into the stratosphere. It’s like a beginning that never quite begins, but it’s utterly and knee-softeningly gorgeous.

Guitarist/vocalist Ben Bridwell’s high-in-the-sky register of voice often deems him comparisons to early Neil Young (Neil Young & Crazy Horse), Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Wayne Coyne (The Flaming Lips), even Perry Farrell (Jane’s Addiction), but to me, he sounds like a young Brian Wilson in a cowboy hat singing through a magically-constructed crystal microphone because everything is so incredibly clear. When he insists that “someone coulda warned you” that “no one’s ever going to love you more than [he] does,” the bends in his inclinations are so clear that they’re physically visible, you can actually feel and touch the wavelength movement and it is all pure gold. Granted, you must be in the proper state of mind to be susceptible to the incredibly soupy-lovesickness of it all, but when you are, it’s just perfection. The lighter-in-the-arena-rockness of
“No One’s Gonna Love You” is a brilliant musical segway to the additionally romantic “Detlef Schrempf,” (don’t let the seemingly strange NBA-player reference confuse you) which is glove-fit for a gaze at the stars or a slow dance with your significant other-half.

As incredibly unattractive those visuals may sound, and as much as the boys of Band of Horses do-well with the wooing and the swooning, don’t brand the band as a one-trick pony. Their cast of vast, atmospheric inclinations are incredibly cinematic and illustrate infinitely-bound western horizons with tales of love, loss, and voyage. Their bright and passionately dreamy transmissions of introspection that are executed in this beautifully filmic and extroverted way, make Cease to Begin utterly unforgettable.

Cease to Begin is out October 9 on Sub Pop

Download "Is There a Ghost" – [mp3]

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