Band of Horses – Infinite Arms [Album Review]

by oz on May 14, 2010

band of horses infinite arms cover art

I really struggled with Band Of Horses upcoming release, Infinite Arms. After my first few listens, I knew that it was not as good as ‚ Everything All The Time or Cease To Begin, but I was trying to make one critical decision: If I were Joe Consumer, would I buy this album?

Instead of jumping to conclusions, I decided to ask our followers on Twitter. While I was floundering with my feelings of indifference, I was shocked at how polarizing this new album appears to be for other Band of Horses fans:

  1. It’s awesome. Their best effort to date! Dynamic, gorgeous, catchy. The band just gets better and better as they move ahead.
  2. Uneventful. there is no ‘killer song’ that makes you want this album. mediocrity?
  3. love the vibes from it – can’t help but smile when listening. going to be a great spring/summer album.
  4. I don’t mind it, I expected a bit more but still good. It’s almost like this one should be the old album and “Cease” be the new 1
  5. Was a bit disappointed by the first single, but haven’t heard the whole album yet
  6. Piece of Shit

I fell near the opinion of #4, initially feeling like this should have been the debut album, followed by Everything All The Time and Cease To Begin.

The album starts off with three of its strongest tracks, a dreamy ballad called “Factory,”‚  a more upbeat pop song called “Compliments,” and another pop-rocker called “Laredo” that features Ben Bridwell’s soft falsetto over searing guitars. In fact, Ben’s vocals haven’t been as polished in this production process, and it’s endearing. He sounds more human.

The two songs that followed, however, lost me.‚  “Blue Beard” is a slow song that moves along nicely until the 2: 40 mark when I began to hear shades of a tune from the past. As I tried to remember what song was popping into my mind, I started singing the lyrics, “someday somebody’s gonna turn around and nun nuh nuh say goodbye!” That was when my wife overheard me and said “Wilson Phillips!” Yes. Indeed. “Hold On” was the song. And while Bridwell’s falsetto is the signature sound of the band, it doesn’t resonate on “Way Back Home,” which comes off sounding like a Peter Cetera song. I’m a big Band of Horses fan, so I really hate to say that, but it was my first reaction and I still can’t help but picture Peter’s perfectly manicured blond mane of hair when that track begins.

I wish they’d have left those two tracks on the cutting room floor, because they’d be left with 11 songs and a stronger album. But enough of the only two weak points on the album. Let me tell you about my turning point with Infinite Arms.

I was in the hospital last week, holding my newborn infant on my chest while my wife slept in her hospital bed. As I reflected on the huge scare we’d just endured due to serious complications and emergency surgery on my wife, the album’s title track began to play from my laptop. The song’s lyrics, atmosphere, and Ben’s vocals reached a crescendo that brought me to tears after a day that went from panic and fear to relief and gratitude. It was one of those magical moments that will stick with me forever. Infinite Arms now has a permanent spot in the soundtrack of my life.

I’ve continued listening to Infinite Arms all week and have become enamored with other tracks like the country inspired “Older” and the sparse, acoustic “Evening Kitchen.” Will you find those big arena-rock friendly songs like “Funeral,” “Is There A Ghost,” “Wicked Gil,” and “Ode To The LRC” from past albums? No, you won’t. But I’d urge you to temper your expectations. Walk into this album like you would into a park on an impulsive day off from work with no obligations. You won’t soar off cliffs, but you’ll find splendor in the minutia.

So to sum up the longest album review in HearYa history, would I buy this album? I’d buy 70% of it.

Stream the entire album here.

Band Of Horses – Factory

Video: Band of Horses – Compliments

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim May 14, 2010 at 7:20 am

I agree that it’s no Cease to Begin, but I like it more than you and #4 up there (even more than Everything All the Time). To #1, I don’t see how “Factory” isn’t the go-to song for this record. It’s my favorite by far.

Overall, I think I might be less disappointed than some people because I already went through my disappointment hearing these songs live; they were underwhelming, and honestly I was prepared for the worst. They sound so much better on record. I’m too relieved to be disappointed! lol

Given to Fly May 14, 2010 at 8:31 am

The new Band of Horses is a strong sounding release with a variety of uptempo tracks including some acoustic numbers with typical BOH harmonies.

I was so rocking out to them on Monday May 10 opening for Pearl Jam from my 12th row floor tenclub seats. It sucks you were disappointed by them live because I disagree. Here this will make you feel better about their live performance.

http://www.amoeba.com/live-shows/videos/band-of-horses.html

Woody May 14, 2010 at 11:31 am

That is a very good and honest review. Funny how certain songs/albums can turn on one event. After my initial dissapointment, the album has continued to grow on me. It is a little too slow in parts for me. The aforementioned Blue Beard doesn’t so much remind me of Wilson Phillips but more of a track out of a 70s Robbie Benson movie.

JonL May 14, 2010 at 12:43 pm

What a lovely review. You nailed it for me. A very hard band not to like because they seem to mean well. Is that playing it too safe? Who cares?!

amela May 14, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Great review…I feel like I’m automatically drawn to Seattle based bands for some reason!

bbb May 14, 2010 at 2:29 pm

I really appreciated your review. A great, honest review. I have been listening to the album on the internet over and over again to let it sink in. I agree there is no stand out track like The Funeral, which always gives me an eerie feeling and make me a bit weepy or trembling. But I enjoy the album mostly as a whole. My favorite track is Older, a track I have looked forward to since I heard them play it at Carnegie Hall last June. Will I buy it, yes. I think it might be an album that grows on me.

Jim May 14, 2010 at 3:02 pm

@Given to Fly: That is a great performance. The performance that got me into BoH was “No One’s Gonna Love You”on Conan. I was just blown away and had to buy the album. The shows I went to were the New Year’s shows in Atlanta. The shows, overall, I loved, but the new songs really just didn’t hit me at all until I heard em on record. “Factory” definitely wasn’t the same without the strings.

Alye May 15, 2010 at 3:18 am

Thanks for this post. It reminds me of the fact that I used to be able to completely halt a 2 year old’s massive tantrum with the song “Is There A Ghost.” Now, that 2 year old is nearly 5 and her favorite band is The Ting Tings (sigh) but I owe Band of Horses a lot for my sanity, so I am certainly going to give this a good long listen . . .

Ben Sommer May 15, 2010 at 8:43 pm

That video is so crazy which can be a good thing.

craig_o May 21, 2010 at 2:08 pm

I’d fall into the “uneventful” camp. I don’t feel the overwhelming urge to buy.

josef May 24, 2010 at 8:01 am

You can check out a stream of the entire band of horses album at http://stream.bandofhorses.com/ Its stupid good

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