Infinite Arms

Band Of Horses

Brown Records/Fat Possum/Columbia, 2010

http://www.bandofhorses.com

REVIEW BY: Melanie Love

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/21/2010

After three albums, the lineup of Seattle-formed Band Of Horses is down to one original member, singer Ben Bridwell. But says Bridwell – he of the languorous, evocative lead vocals – this configuration is the true heart of Band Of Horses, that finally it feels like a real unified band. And for the most part, Infinite Arms fulfills that proclamation. It’s tightly orchestrated but still full of the sweeping instrumentation and harmonies that turned songs like “The Funeral” (off of 2006’s Everything All The Time) into veritable epics; meanwhile, the bluesy, Southern sprawl holds true, enveloping even the most energetic of cuts with a summery warmth.

The only caveat to be found with this disc is that it’s been done before, and at times, better, by earlier incarnations of the Horses. If debut my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Everything All The Time was a revelation, a breath of understated yet earnest emotion, follow-up Cease To Begin was a turn-of-page, and Infinite Arms is stuck in the same chapter, with far less of a scope than the title would suggest.

For Band Of Horses, though, repetition is nevertheless pretty likeable. Lead single “Laredo” sparkles with energy, a catchy guitar riff meshing nicely with Bridwell’s soothing vocals. It’s a nice combination of spiritedness and unease, the lyrics prickling against the cheery rhythms (“Oh, I think the worst thing I could do / Is get back home to you”). Meanwhile, opener “Factory” builds on gracefully soaring synths, subtly tugging at the heartstrings à la “The Funeral”  – though I could envision second cut “Compliments” as a more effective beginning, with its chugging guitars paired with propulsive lyrics.

Infinite Arms has a nice measure between syrupy slow-burners and more revved-up cuts; “Dilly” boasts an interesting call-and-response aProach to harmonies and a clean underpinning of instrumentation, and “On My Way Back Home” has a weary, twilight beauty to it. Also worth a mention, the slow as a humid afternoon and sparsely accompanied “For Annabelle” manages not to get undercut by being foLowed by the almost manic (at least for Band Of Horses) drumbeats and urgency of “NW Apt.”

But by the time closer “Neighbor” hits, there’s that sense of having heard this all before, and I didn’t quite fall in love with any of these songs as I did with “No One’s Gonna Love You” from their previous disc, or the whole of their debut. For a brand-new lineup and Bridwell ascertaining how excellent it feels to finally have that sense of being a “band,” I wanted to hear more of that enthusiasm and innovation. Everything is lovely and listenable, but I suppose that after two solid albums, I have higher standards for this Band. Consistency is commendable, but I don’t want to see them slow-burn their way into oblivion.

Rating: B-

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