Thursday, September 27, 2007

Band of Horses - Cease to Begin

Hailing from Seattle, Washington, Band of Horses saw a rapid rise to indie-rock stardom with their debut release Everything All The Time (2006, Sub Pop). Combining dreamy guitars, alt-country, and ethereal voice of Ben Bridwell they are most often compared to My Morning Jacket. Upon listening to their debut it was shocking how their voices sounded so similar. In a short amount of time in 2006, Ben Bridwell and his friend Matthew Brooke went from opening act (for labelmate Iron & Wine) to performing on The Late Show with David Letterman. With this much lauded debut also came unexpected changes to the band before recording the follow-up Cease to Begin (Oct. 9, 2007). Matthew Brooke left the band to pursue a solo venture and a couple other members moved away to be closer to their families.

Early reviews of Cease to Begin have been saying this effort is severely lacking. This is only partially true. There are also some differences that are a pleasant surprise. Cease to Begin is less "indie" and more accessible in its directness. Certain hushed or restrained elements on their debut are stripped away to bring Ben Bridwell front and center. It's hard to say this album isn't distinctly Band of Horses in its beauty of sound, but it's less circuitous and more on the straight and narrow. Some say this is a downfall; but that is all they've known. The band has mutated their stripes but hasn't lost them. There are fewer epic songs like "The Funeral," and Mr. Briwell's normal lyrical punch is dampened on a many tracks. His plaintive sighs aren't nearly as interesting as when he's belting out his feelings. Speculation could be that whenever a close band member is no longer around certain dynamics change. What these dynamics were for Band of Horses are a mystery, but from this album it's safe to say Mr. Brooke probably contributed some songwriting depth that leaves Cease to Begin enjoyable but feeling a tad bit thin.

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