Band of Horses’ second record, Cease to Begin, felt a bit like an extension of their debut, which is no surprise given the reasonably short space of time between their releases. Both records were outstanding pieces of glaringly American sounding alt/country indie rock and propelled them to relative fame on home soil and also over here to some extent. For their third album, Infinite Arms, they have left behind Sub Pop and as a result not had any label pressure to make sure the album was done within a set period.
The opening song of the album, ‘Factory’, sounds slightly more ambitious than anything we’ve heard from the band previously with the inclusion of a string section and it combines well with Ben Bridwell’s typically soothing vocals. Following on from this is the leading single from the album, ‘Compliments’, a straight up country-esque pop rock song with a strong chorus and it’s the sort of song that may see them turn from indie cult heroes to mainstream household names before too long. The most striking thing about Infinite Arms is that they now sound like a more polished band and while this helps them the majority of the time, they can sometimes suffer for it too. Whereas songs such as ‘The Great Salt Lake’ and ‘Ode to LRC’ hit you straight away on the previous albums, the ones on here seem to be the classic growers that are not quite as instantly accessible.
Vocal harmonies stand out hugely compared to earlier efforts and it seems like an art which they have perfected just as well as former label friends Fleet Foxes and at times even to the standard of Brian Wilson and company. Bridwell’s lyrics still focus on romance and imagery of small town America, but it never gets dull and with heartbreaking lines like, “don’t you hold out your hand, I called off my plans, I counted on you” on ‘Evening Kitchen’ you feel he is not the luckiest man in love and can really sympathise with his feelings. Ballads like ‘Trudy’ and ‘Way Back Home’ show the incredible ability that they have to write classic songs without getting overcomplicated as so many bands seem to in this day and age. Band of Horses have made the album feel very simple albeit still maintaining interest throughout and making sure you never get bored. It is a very much a love album and does just as good a job as the previous records to engage your senses as well as your ears. While very much being a grower compared to their previous two releases, it still sounds like Band of Horses and if at first it doesn’t hit you don’t give up because before long you’ll be totally floored.
Band Of Horses release Infinite Arms on May 17th through Columbia Records. You can view a “Making of Infinite Arms” video below and stream the album here.