Reference CD Review: Band of Horses

Cease to Begin Sub Pop
Music •••• Sound •••••

By turning down the reverb, punching up the melodies, saying goodbye to co-founder Mat Brooke, and relocating from Seattle to South Carolina, Band of Horses have subtly remade themselves for Album No. 2. Producer Phil Ek still lets the shimmering guitars pile up, but the spatial dynamics are superb throughout, allowing Ben Bridwell's pristine vocal delivery to highlight these gentle songs. "No One's Gonna Love You" has its roots in '90s shoegazer pop - but riding alongside the equally austere "Detlef Schrempf," these guys prove they can turn it down without losing their punch. Bridwell's earnestness evokes labelmates the Shins in spots, and the band even catches a similarly urgent yet weightless rhythm for "Ode to LRC" and "The General Specific." But with the tight harmonies of "Marry Song" and the gentle gait of the closing "Window Blues," things swerve unexpectedly toward convincing country-rock. Cease to Begin is a triumph of sound and variety.

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