North Carolina’s Band Of Horses return for album number three, newly expanded in line up and drawing deeply on America’s rich musical history.
The band sealed their status with their previous album, 2007’s ‘Cease To Begin’, building on their early online, blog buzz acclaim. ‘Infinite Arms’ sees the band, led by Ben Bridwell, drop many of their ‘indie rock’ pretensions for a more classic, rootsy American sound.
Formerly a trio with two touring members recently promoted to full time status, their addition and contributions shouldn’t be underestimated with Bridwell saying “in many ways, this is the first Band of Horses record.”
Kicking off with the pretty ballad ‘Factory’, it’s a beginning at odds with ‘Cease To Begin”s ‘Is There A Ghost’, favouring a laidback approach over walls of rushing guitars. It’s also a good indicator for the rest of the album’s twelve tracks.
Not that there’s a lack of urgency, but many of the songs do seem to hover around the point marked ‘mid paced’ with faster numbers, ‘NW Apt.’ or ‘Dilly’, the exceptions.
Stand outs amongst the slower songs include ‘Blue Beard’, its stately swagger topped by coo-ing harmonies and punctuating guitar chords with a chorus that recalls Starland Vocal Band’s ‘Afternoon Delight’.
The album’s title track ‘Infinite Arms’ is a ghostly strum before ‘Dilly’ moves things up a gear momentarily then we’re back into acoustic territory with the intimate ‘Evening Kitchen’ and the pedal steel adorned ‘Older’. ‘For Annabelle’ is another pretty acoustic ballad then it’s into the, by this point, unexpectedly fast ‘NW Apt.’. Its melody tempers the change in volume and tempo and it proves a late album highlight. ‘Neighbor’ brings the album to a suitable end as it builds from simple ballad to a satisfying crescendo or guitar and organ before opting for a long fade out.
From their indie rock beginnings Band Of Horses have grown into modern American torch bearers, their grasp on State-side music and history apparent in their effortlessly authentic yet ageless sound. ‘Infinite Arms’ is their strongest album yet, perfecting their instantly recognisable sound with Bridwell in fine voice throughout.
Words by Nick Annan