Thursday, June 17, 2010

Album Review - Band of Horses - Infinite Arms

This review is part of the "Over Flow" Review Series. For various reasons these past reviews were not published anywhere else. I am tagging them as "Overflow Reviews" and may add some extra information before or after if needed but will keep the ratings and reviews just as I originally wrote them. Enjoy:
Band of Horse’s
Infinite Arms

**** out of *****

Have you ever had a gimlet to start a night of festivities during a summer gathering with friends, loved ones and a few strangers mixed in?  That gimlet is what Infinite Arms feels like; refreshing and enjoyable to start, that influx of lime and booze dropkicks the senses.  Soothing and easy as it progresses, brightening the surroundings even as the sun recedes.  In the end it has hit the spot, quenched the nerves yet lit that social fire; you are ready for the night to commence.

All three of Band of Horses albums have been unique; Infinite Arms is their mellowest offering so far and probably contains the least amount of standout songs, yet in the end may be their most cohesive full album offering.  The highest points come at the start and then the album coasts along.  “Factory” and “Compliments” are the two of the best tracks setting the bar high with their pristine production, horns on the first and driving guitars on the second.  “Laredo” possesses transitional lyrics matched by both clean and fuzzy six-strings over a strong back beat and comes before the album settles into some slower tracks that rely on Ben Bridwell’s fantastic vocals.

The voices are the true highlight on any Band of Horses albums, with perfect harmony’s expansive range and somber inflection.  For my money they are the best vocal band in rock and roll, so good that they add gravitas to simple lyrics; reminiscent of David Byrne. They have the ability to take the plain and inject beauty and meaning; elevating the everyday.

Take the closing lines to “Bluebeard”: “Find another way, try to break the ice/Every day and night, the banana peels were true, true”.  Written they are nonsense, but when sung by Bridwell and company something happens.  That’s not to say all the lyrics are meaningless, in fact, it wouldn’t be shocking to find that this is a loose concept album.  Homes, or at least passing residencies, are centerpieces of multiple tracks, the title song “Infinite Arms” sounds like it was sung and recorded on a back porch in the woods.  The specter of departing lover hovers on the outskirts of most songs as well creeping in and tugging at heartstrings.

Music, vocals and lyrics link up so effortlessly that it almost tips the album towards too polished, but before the sun sets, Infinite Arms tosses out the pounding drums and hints at a new beginning with “Northwest Apartment” and the glorious piano closing of “Bartles + James”.  All at once ending and yet transcending one of the albums of the year.        

A couple of more thoughts and a bunch of videos after the jump....

When I first grabbed this album the day I returned from Jazzfest I was disappointed.  Band of Horses blew me away down there and I was ready to take off again.  Three songs in I was pumped, then the middle tracks came and I admit I lost interest.  I didn't want mellow, I wanted to soar with the major key progressions and Bridwells "Ooh's" and "Ahh's".  After a while I went back and let the album sink in, and it is a winner.  Perhaps not as great as Cease to Begin, but really quite fricking good.

As someone who leans more towards the heavy, I love the beginning and ends of this, but there is something to said about the soothing middle and that is what really grew on me...

OK I have said enough...give me your thoughts and check out some live vids from the fellas...
"Factory" From "Later with Jools Holland"

The delicate title track..."Infinite Arms" (Some cool Closeups of the playing)

and an acoustic "Laredo" from the same session (Such great lyrics in this tune):

"Northwest Apt" One more from Jools

What do you think?

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