Cease To Begin

Band Of Horses

Sub Pop, 2007


REVIEW BY: Melanie Love


Second albums can be a tricky thing, especially when it comes to the comparatively short attention span of indie listeners looking for the latest trend. Seattle’s Band Of Horses released their lushly catchy debut Everything All The Time in 2005 and, following the departure of founding member Mat Brooke, the band relocated to South Carolina. Combining a new small-town spin with their sweeping guitars and vocals and tenderly evocative yet anthemic lyrics, the band on Cease To Begin deftly avoids the traps of either sounding too samey or abandoning the quirks that endeared listeners to them in the first place.

The album churns to life with lead-off single “Is There A Ghost,” really the closest thing to the soaring energy of “Funeral,” Everything All The Time’s nbtc__dv_250 incomparable standout, on this disc. The lyrics are spare on “Ghost,” three lines repeated throughout in a refrain that creates a sort of trance-like effect, which is nicely matched by the textured crunch of guitars and drums overlaid by lead singer Ben Bridwell’s clear, distinctive vocals.

Things continue in the same vein of pulsing energy as “Ode To LRC” launches out, which soon gives way to lightly measured strings as Bridwell begins to croon about a stray dog, coupling powerful lines like “The town is so small/How could anybody not look me in the eyes the way that I drive by?” with a sense of gentle, wide-eyed amazement that just allows him to get away with a sentiment as open yet potentially cheesy as “The world is such a wonderful place” that then dissolves into a chorus of “La-di-das.”

One of the highlights of Cease To Begin for me is “No One’s Gonna Love You,” which I spun on repeat to no end when this was first released. Combining shimmering guitar with Bridwell’s multi-layered vocals and a straightforward drum beat, this track manages to be radio-friendly without a hint of sheen, only the heartfelt openness that Band Of Horses has made their signature.

The secluded, small-town influence makes itself most evident on tracks like “Detlef Schrempf,” which breaks through a string of up-temp, more riff-based rockers with its slight touches of guitar, downbeat drums and the quietly evocative refrain, “Eyes can’t look at you any other way.”

Still, the band is just as strong when it comes to delivering material with widened scope and a new sense of energy, as seen on “The General Specific,” which is all catchy, jangling pop and plinking piano, and “Islands Of The Coast,” the most brazenly upbeat, riff-driven offering on the album. Finally, though, things come to a close with the slow-burning country wash of “Window Blues,” which fades away to a banjo outro that gives the album its enclosed, serene feel, a sense of subtlety and bare emotion that characterizes the band themselves.

Though it clocks in at just under 35 minutes, Cease To Begin is one of those solid stunners of a record that, just when everything seems like it’s already been done, still manages to surprise.

Rating: A-

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