Band of Horses, or Fleet Foxes for grown-ups as I call them, have been through a lot over the last four years. Their first album, Everything All the Time, was recorded after they were recruited to open for Iron & Wine in 2005. After the recording, two members of the band were let go. They brought in three new members to finish out their tour. Before they started recording Cease to Begin, another member left (Matt Brooke, who went on to form Grand Archives). After Cease to Begin, the band added another three members.
Through it all Ben Bridwell and company have continued to make quality records, despite any outside obstructions. Now a quintet, Band of Horses released Infinite Arms on May 18, 2010. Bridwell has called this the first true Band of Horses album, due to the group’s now stable lineup.
It’s worrisome, then, that the album is so inconsistent. Infinite Arms features the first song not sung by Bridwell on a Band of Horses album, “Older.” Surprisingly it’s one of my favorite tracks on the album. Keyboardist Ryan Monroe penned this one, a song about remembrance of times past. A sweet, country-tinged track with fairly shallow lyrics but deep with emotion.
That’s as close as they come to the power that punches through the previous two albums. Infinite Arms has a lot of good songs on it, but nothing that touches songs like “No One’s Gonna Love You” or “The Funeral.” Not that there are any bad songs, per se. Mostly it just feels like we’ve been here before. “Evening Kitchen” reminds me too much of “St. Augustine” and “Laredo” doesn’t sound exactly like “Weed Party,” but it’s a close approximation.
I was really excited for this album when it came out this summer. My wife and I had been to Atlanta to see Band of Horses perform two shows for New Year’s and they played about half of the album. I thought the songs they played sounded good, but the finished product left me a bit cold the first time I listened to it. In subsequent listens, over the past few months, I’ve warmed up a bit to the record. I still think it misses the mark as often as it hits, but I like Infinite Arms despite it’s faults.
And I can’t hate a band for going back to the well for inspiration. Everyone does it from time to time, even my beloved Wilco — GASP! Don’t tell them I said that — has been guilty of this crime. I just hope that Band of Horses can build on this record and come out stronger on the next one.
I have a lot of faith that they are capable of more great records. After all, Ben Bridwell is the one that told that “the world is such a wonderful place.” With more Band of Horses records coming, I have no reason to doubt that.
- Band of Horses, hailing from Seattle and South Carolina, is: Ben Bridwell (vocals/keys/guitar), Ryan Monroe (keys/vocals), Tyler Ramsey (guitar), Bill Reynolds (bass) and Creighton Barrett (drums).
- Infinite Arms is available on Band of Horses’ official site for $10.99 (CD). The LP, which costs $19.99, is sold out.
- The group will be playing a sold-out show at the Riviera Theatre on October 19. Sorry, it’s sold out!
“Laredo” official music video