Monday, September 6, 2010

Quick 'N Dirty Review: Band Of Horses | Infinite Arms

Before we start, here's a quick look at the rating system that we use here at The Dirtywhirl:

100 - Classic Album; One Of The Best Of All Time
99-90 - Exceptional Work; Rush Out And Get This
89-80 - Very, Very Good; You Should Still Go Out And Get This
79-70 - Not Bad At All; Might Actually Be Worth Your Time
69-60 - Has Its Moments But On The Whole... Meh
59-50 - Won't Make Your Ears Bleed; Won't Make You Dance, Either
49-0 - Don't Waste Your Time; You're Smarter Than This (Probably) 

Now... onto the review:

Band Of Horses | Infinite Arms

A bit of initial full disclosure: Band Of Horses is one of my favorite bands to emerge in the past five years. There really isn’t anything about them that I dislike and I count both of their previous records among any “favorite albums of all time” list that I could compile. Thus, this might play a little less like review and a little more like a rant. Indulge me, if you will. With that being said, I’m having a difficult time understanding why it’s suddenly become trendy to hate on them. “Bland Of Horses”? Really? And what’s more frustrating than that is that their third record, Infinite Arms, feels like a natural extension of the sounds that they’d explored on their previous albums but for some reason they’re being ripped left and right by almost everyone with a laptop. I don’t get it. Lead vocalist/guitarist Ben Bridwell has been quoted as saying that this is the first true Band Of Horses album and, in many ways, he’s not far off the mark. There’s a confidence to this record that’s born of the unity that Bridwell feels with this incarnation of the band. Evolving from a de facto solo project (albeit with help from former Carissa’s Wierd bandmate Mat Brooke) on Everything All The Time, to the more band-oriented Cease To Begin, to now the totally collaborative Infinite Arms shows just how fully realized the band has become (Bridwell even cedes lead vocal duties to Ryan Monroe on “Older”). They’ve opened up and expanded their sound more than ever before on Infinite Arms, creating a cinematic landscape on much of the record. It also has a strong autumnal vibe like much of their previous work did and, I’ll admit, I am a sucker for that kind of atmosphere. Right off the bat, “Factory” employs strings and Bridwell’s familiar golden voice to instantly create the standard Band Of Horses atmospherics very well. “Laredo” (the sound of summer 2010 to my ears) is one of the band’s strongest singles to date as Bridwell laments, “Oh, my love/ You don’t even call/ Oh, my love/ Is that you on the phone?” over rollicking guitars from Monroe and Tyler Ramsey. Another absurd criticism lobbed at the band is that they’re stagnating but where lazy critics see stagnation, I see expansion. There are richer textures of sounds on Infinite Arms than anywhere else in their catalog. To that end, look no further than the title track. Any record that features waves of warm beauty heard on a track like “Infinite Arms” (which could be the sonic sibling to Cease To Begin’s breathtakingly beautiful “Detlef Schrempf”) should not have its relevance called into question. Admittedly, the record does take on a dad-rockish feel at times but that shouldn’t always be a pejorative. Why should tracks as moving as the Brian Wilson-influenced “Blue Beard” (“I used to see the night so anxious/ But now I know/ The only thing it ever taught me was a grand illusion that comes and goes/ The city blanketed in snow”) or the gorgeous “For Annabelle” be dumped on simply for appealing to a mature audience? I suppose that, in many ways, they are this generation’s Eagles. While some hated the Eagles (and some people REALLY hated them), they stand as a classic band in the rock ‘n roll pantheon. Time will tell whether Band Of Horses will eventually take their place there as well but after their first three albums it’s easy to envision a time when they will.

Standout Tracks: “Laredo;” “Infinite Arms;” “Blue Beard;” “Factory;” “For Annabelle”

Dirty Rating: 93/100

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