Band Of Horses – Infinite Arms (Columbia) 17/05/2010

May 10, 2010 by  

“The elevator in the hotel lobby has a lazy door…” notes Bridwell’s unmistakable vocal over a lush, string-led intro. Play album opener ‘Factory’, and it’s like saying hello to an old friend, albeit one with a new, tidier haircut. This track never lifts off in the way we might expect, and this sense of a more refined sound prevails across the whole of the South Carolina band’s third album. Country-tinged acoustics replace the huge Band of Horses guitar mountain and Bridwell’s vocal is also calmer as a result (for the most part). Current single, ‘Compliments’ is lovely and stompy with a catchy chorus and is as upbeat as Band of Horses get – but its sense of dishevelled optimism keeps its feet on the ground.

Tracks such as ‘Evening Kitchen’ and ‘Blue Beard’ have more than a hint of Fleet Foxes or Midlake about them, but the duel harmonies are executed perfectly. ‘Blue Beard’ also marks a change in direction with its added introspection, and paves the way for the mid-section of the album. ‘Way Back Home’ gallops along with sleigh-bells and some lovely acoustic guitar and title track, ‘Infinite Arms’ is arguably this album’s highlight. Its heart is laid bare for all to see and its crescendo of a chorus grabs the gut in the way that only a Band of Horses love song can. ‘Dilly’ and ‘Older’ both sound a little corny by comparison, which is a shame, but ‘For Annabelle’ pulls the second half of the album back with its sleepy rhythm guitar and lilting riffs.

Closing track ‘Neighbor’ uses its slow build up and its imagery of an America of old to lull us into a dream, but just when you think this track is about to slope off across the prairie and into the distance it morphs into an organ-flecked take on the classic Band of Horses instrumental which then slowly fades – its a great touch but far too brief, and perhaps arrives a bit late in the day.

It’s easy to start off thinking this album follows on exactly where the last two albums left off but it soon becomes clear that a recent change of line-up and label have been complimented with a much more refined sound. The poignancy of ‘Infinite Arms’ can for the most part be found in the small, everyday details observed in its lyrics, rather than in grand sweeping musical gestures; the melodies are strong, but the overall sound is not as huge as one might expect based on previous Band of Horses records. This is no bad thing; ‘Infinite Arms’ is a solid album with some great tracks, but this more muted, accessible offering doesn’t quite deliver those gorgeous gut-wrenching moments as often as fans might like.

[rating:3.5]


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