Sometimes a change of scenery can do you good. Especially when you’re trying to make that all-important sophomore album amid high expectations and everything else that comes with following up an album as good as their first one. For Band of Horses, it meant leaving the indie-drenched Pacific Northwest for the down home flavor of the Carolinas, and bringing to the forefront a rustic side that merely peaked through the lush atmospherics of their debut. Sure, the band brought Everything All The Time’s eerie gloom and grandiosity with them across the Mason-Dixon, but now there’s a greater complimentary sense of triumph and tenderness at the core of these new songs.
Ben Bridwell and company aren’t shooting for the moon here. Hell, Kid A wasn’t built in a day. Instead they pick up where they left off, giving us a glimpse of a band finding their sound over the course of an entire album. It’s nice to see a band that still appreciates the album as an art form, and Cease to Begin should definitely be swallowed whole. The dramatic highs and lows of their debut have been leveled out producing a more consistent collection that further explores the secondary territories of Everything All The Time.
The songs twist and turn, sometimes unexpectedly, but nothing here is quite as epic as Funeral or Great Salt Lake, as the band opts to delve into the less immediate aspects of their sound that made songs like Wicked Gil, Our Swords, and Monsters so great. The melodies are striking, allowing fragility as well as adventurousness to coexist in the warmth of the songs as Bridwell’s stunning voice continues to soar above them with further tales of life among ghosts and animals both literal and figurative. It’s that voice that can make even borderline cheesy lines like “the world is such a beautiful place,” “watch how you treat every living soul,” “no one’s going to love you more than I do,” and “La Di Da” work because of the beauty of their simplicity matched with Bridwell’s convincing sincerity.
The slow building Is There A Ghost is a quintessential album opener that finds Bridwell repeating “I could sleep when I lived alone, is there a ghost in my house?” until he’s carried off by said apparition in the form of a riotous guitar jam that ends much too soon, but that’s just me. I suppose that says something when the only negative comment I have about the record is that a song is too short. The oddly titled Detlef Shrempf is a beauty despite being named after a gangly German-American three-point specialist, while the unfolding No One’s Gonna Love You may just be the finest Band of Horses song yet. But it’s The General Specific and Marry Song that most clearly offer a glimpse into where the Horses are as a band now compared to where they were a year or so ago. Whereas Everything All The Time had its special moments, Cease to Begin is a moment unto itself. Take it all in.
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