Posted on May 20th, 2010 (3:18 pm) by Joe D. Michon-Huneau

Band of Horses have always been a difficult band for me. They’ve consistently straddled a fine line between being an extremely talented band and being an extremely boring one. Their latest album, Infinite Arms, is no different in this respect, but it does mark a bit of a departure from their first two outings. Band of Horses have been working on their harmonies.

The recent onslaught of vocally-driven indie bands such as Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear may have influenced Band of Horses to experiment more with their harmonic abilities. Or perhaps it is a new requirement for bands with animal-inspired names to be well versed in that area of performance. In all actuality, this new found approach is likely due to the newest addition to their band, Tyler Ramsey, whose voice compliments band leader Ben Bridwell’s smooth vocals exceptionally well. Bridwell is no stranger to lineup changes; Band of Horses have had a revolving door of musicians since the group’s inception in 2004. Their current lineup consists of Bridwell and Ramsey, both on guitar and vocals, Creighton Barrett, their longstanding drummer, Ryan Monroe, who joined on keys during their Cease to Begin sessions, and another new member, bassist Bill Reynolds.

The nice thing about Band of Horses is that, even with all of the member changes, they seem to have had their shit together on every album. Can it be that they’re always on the up and up? They’re definitely headed in the right direction on Infinite Arms, but they seem to always be heading in the right direction without ever arriving at their destination. They’re currently attracting more attention than ever and opening for bands like Pearl Jam and Snow Patrol will only help. Although their experiments in voice have paid off big, they’ll need to experiment a bit more with style and song progression in order to shrug off their sleepy reputation.

Plunging right into the album, the listener can already hear them pushing themselves further than they’ve allowed themselves to go on recordings past. Orchestral string arrangements sweep past an opening drum roll on opener “Factory,” and Bridwell and Ramsey’s harmonies take immediate effect thereafter. Their combined vocal timbre reveals a well hidden southern drawl at times; Infinite Arms places Band of Horses in a sweet spot between southern rock, alt-country and indie rock—at the center of a musical Bermuda triangle of sorts. This is readily apparent on “Blue Beard,” a song that at first evokes a Fleet Foxes quality before diving into an almost pop-country ballad of incredibly lame proportions.

But slow burners like the gorgeous title track, the chill-inducing “For Annabelle” and the simple acoustic duet “Evening Kitchen” are where Bridwell and Ramsey’s harmonies shine exceptionally bright. Fortunately or not, a slower pace finds them at their best, which places the previously stated conundrum (talented vs. boring) in a new light. Unfortunately, tunes like “Older” make me wary of just how perfect their vocals are…and given the state-of-the-art recording technologies at hand, I’m really, really, really hoping that Band of Horses aren’t taking advantage of the new and improved pitch correction widely available today. I almost liked it better when pitch correction was easily spotted so as to be able to separate the haves from the have-nots, per se (see Aqualung’s “Strange and Beautiful (I’ll Put a Spell on You)” for a great example of such).

Band of Horses do their best to keep things interesting with (comparatively) upbeat tracks such as “Compliments,” “Laredo,” and “Dilly,” all of which are successes on more than one level. But speeding up the tempo doesn’t necessarily keep one’s interest; their most upbeat song, “NW Apt.,” is by far the least exciting song on the album.

Ultimately, Infinite Arms is a toss-up. If you love impeccable harmonies, slow-strummed guitars, beastly beards and that sweet southern vibe in your rock music, you’ll probably love this album, but if you really crave creative song structures, non-traditional chord progressions and music that won’t put you to sleep, it may not be for you. But whatever you do, don’t listen to Band of Horses if you’re going to be driving a long distance at night. It may be fatal.

Track List:
1. Factory
2. Compliments
3. Laredo
4. Blue Beard
5. On My Way Back Home
6. Infinite Arms
7. Dilly
8. Evening Kitchen
9. Older
10. For Annabelle
11. NW Apt.
12. Neighbor

Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

68 / 100
© Inyourspeakers Media LLC