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Album review: Band of Horses, "Infinite Arms"

By Allison Stewart

"Infinite Arms," Band of Horses' third album and major label debut, was supposed to be their Big Moment, the album that did for them what "Evil Urges" did for My Morning Jacket: Which is to say, turn them from a beloved indie band into a moderately recognizable crossover success story.

But "Arms" underwhelms. It's not bad, just drowsy and hook-less and remote, as if the band didn't perform these songs so much as swat at them idly as they floated by. Band of Horses songs can usually be divided into two types: country-ish folk songs that suggest a less jammy and psychedelic Built to Spill fronted by Neil Young; and anthemic tracks like "The Funeral," with the stadium choruses and ringing guitars of a backwoods U2.

The group's past two discs served up both, in almost equal helpings, but "Infinite Arms" focuses on mellow, small-scale songs to exclusion of virtually all else. For every would-be barnburner like "Factory" (which evokes the best moments from the band's debut, "Everything All the Time"), there are several sound-alike mid-tempo tracks like "Blue Beard" (Beach Boys harmonies, done '70s style).

Most bands use their big-league breakthrough discs to, you know, break through. But "Infinite Arms" is a work of surpassing stubbornness, if nothing else: a great big punt of an album that is more interested in deflating the band's sound than in puffing it up, an idea as ill-advised as it is admirable. It's the rarest of rock-and-roll animals, a major label debut that doesn't sell out enough.

Recommended tracks: "Factory," "NW Apt."

By David Malitz  |  May 18, 2010; 9:15 AM ET
Categories:  Quick spins  | Tags: Band of Horses  
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Sounds like somebody got up on the wrong side of the bed this "cd-release morning". Before I get into the album, let's clear something up. No one was expecting this to be BOH's "Evil Urges". That'd be the next album, hun. If anything this is their "Z". With more instrumentation and sound-scapes than before, 'Infinite Arms' adds a spaciousness to a band known for their brilliant use of reverb and delay. This one has something for everybody, if you loved 'the Mat Brooke era' of BOH then the vocals and guitar work are sure to please on 'Arms'. On 'Evening Kitchen' and 'Older' they've captured that goosebump raising feeling that 'St. Augustine' gave us the first time around. On the other hand, 'Compliments' takes the boys into bar-band territory and they stay there with 'Laredo'. They'll both make you wish BOH were playing at your favorite bar tonight. Tracks like 'On My Way Back Home' and 'Infinite Arms' bring back the intimacy of a beautiful marriage between Southern Gothic and the Northwest indie sound. BOH strolls down this familiar path laid by Modest Mouse, Built to Spill, Iron Wine and others. What makes this album special is, while crisp and polished, it still feels like an independent effort that's personal and unique. As the album comes to a close 'NW Apt' gives ya'll the assurance that these guys have some serious jammin' to get done this summer. 'Neighbor' is an amazing closer that ponders the meaning of it all. Just as you think that this last track is just another softy, it kicks you right in the ass. Which is probably what the previous reviewer needs anyway.

Posted by: mstrother1 | May 18, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

I've been a fan of BOH from the first cd! To be honest after listening to "Infinite Arms" the first time I thought generally what you said myself but after really dissecting this record I must say I love it. As Ben Bridwell has said, This is truly the first "Band of Horses" cd. With contributions from Tyler Ramsey and Ryan Monroe this record has much more depth and the vocals are tremendous.

Don't just listen to it once and start to be critical like most people. This little band from SC / NC are doing something different by not listening to critics and writing songs for the masses. Give credit where credit is due!

Posted by: thecoldroses2009 | May 18, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Go purchase an old Eagles album instead of this crap...they put out 2 great albums and then this boring office cheese.

Posted by: ksuface | May 19, 2010 11:27 PM | Report abuse

Go purchase an old Eagles album instead of this crap...they put out 2 great albums and then this boring office cheese.

Posted by: ksuface | May 19, 2010 11:27 PM | Report abuse

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