Take a look at the cover art to the right of these words. If you were browsing through the racks at your local record store, this cover is nearly all that you'd need to know about the new of Band of Horses.
From the band name to the album name to the script typeface to the starry skyscape over the rocky landscape, it's built-in marketing for the expansive yet intimate, pretty, Neil Young-inspired music contained therein.
It's a warm and inviting record, especially when the golden-voiced singer, Ben Bridwell, delivers lines like "My friends and family / The little things I've got / When my thoughts drift to you." Bridwell's melodies and his honey-sweet tenor are easily the main attraction here, and the airtight Eagles-esque harmonies are what buoy the often-flaccid light-rock music.
Fans of sweet harmonies and really top-notch vocals will dig Band of Horses. Surely, it's these assets that let them make the jump from Sub Pop to the major-label Columbia Records. But my biggest problem is the flatness of the whole thing. Sure, these soungs sound perfect, but they're also perfectly uninteresting. Or maybe, it's that they actually are interesting, but because there's little variation in tempo, dynamics, themes, and arrangements that they all run together after a while. It's only on song 11 that they try to turn it up a notch, with the sort-of rocker "NW Apt."
It's all an beautifully crafted exercise of middle-of-the-road light county rock. In other words, it's gonna be huge. Just look at The Eagles.
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Best song: "Neighbor," the closing epic ballad.
Deja vu: "I've been through the desert on a horse with no name" or "Sister Goldenhair" or "Oh, Oz never did give nothing to the tin man / That he didn't, didn't already have."
I'd rather listen to: Wilco's Being There, of course, or even Neil Young's Harvest Moon.
"Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 40-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.