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Monday, October 08, 2007

Band of Horses: "Cease to Begin"

I feel like a sham. Here I am, calling myself a fan of indie rock, and I'm just now hearing Band of Horses for the first time. All that stuff last year about their debut album "Everything All the Time" winning awards and finding its way on to Top 10 lists had absolutely no effect on me. Granted, I had heard of the band, but I never went out of my way to pick up a copy of their work. In the immortal words of Ron Burgundy, I immediately regret this decision. "Cease to Begin" has not only reminded me why I started listening to indie music in the first place, but it has single-handedly revitalized my passion for the genre.

The album begins with the beautiful "Is There a Ghost," in which Ben Bridwell repeats "I could sleep when I lived alone. Is there a ghost in my house?" for the entirety of the song. It never gets old though. The song begins softly, with Bridwell's mesmerizing vocals and a barely-there guitar before the rest of the band explodes onto the track. Chaotic drumming and the steady, rocking strum of electric guitars carry the song to it's unwanted conclusion. On "No One's Gonna Love You," Bridwell's vocals are equally as powerful as he belts out his poignant vocals with the utmost passion. The melody is infectious as well, especially by the time the bridge comes around. Here Bridwell sings, "They could have warned you when things start splitting at the seams. And now the whole thing's tumbling down," and you can't help but be captured by it. It is a finely crafted song, and one of the album's more memorable tracks.

"Detlef Schrempf" takes it's name from the former Seattle Supersonics player. But unlike the athlete's aggressive and intimidating style of play, the song is the first time that the band slows things down on the album (it clearly has nothing to do with Detlef, either). Bridwell's lyrics are again very poignant, and his delivery is flawless. "The General Specific" picks things back up with a bouncy composition, complete with hand claps and a sing-along melody. The song won't win any awards, but it's a fun song nonetheless. The same can be said for "Islands on the Coast," which marks the first time the band really lets loose on "Cease to Begin." The music here is absolutely intense, and Birdwell's vocals equally so, though it's difficult to decipher what he's saying most of the time.

"Marry Song" slows things back down and prominently features a Rhodes piano and harmonizing vocals. The song is very folksy, and the drums hardly even come into play here. Birdwell begins the song by singing, "I'll marry my lover in a place to admire...I can look in her eyes and thank God that I'm forgiven," and the rest of the song doesn't disappoint either. The album wraps up with the unadulterated rock of "Cigarettes, Wedding Bands" and the cool alt-country sound of "Windows Blues." The former's lyrics are among the album's best, while the latter ends "Cease to Begin" on a very positive note with the band sounding as cohesive as they ever do and Bridwell's vocals sounding just as beautiful.

After listening to "Cease to Begin" several times, I can safely say that Band of Horses are one of indie rock's more impressive and unceasingly pleasing bands. I may be late to the party, but at this point I'm just glad I decided to show up. "Cease to Begin" is a brilliant album, and definitely gets me excited to go back and hear the band's other works. Sure, it may seem a bit front-heavy, but by the time the final second ticks off the clock, you can't help but be pleased with what you have just experienced. If you have been waiting for 2007's rock album of the year, wait no more. It has arrived!

Recommended for fans of Band of Horses, Rogue Wave, The Shins and anyone who is also a bit late to the party.

Key Tracks:
1. "Is There A Ghost"
2. " Ode to LRC"
3. "No One's Gonna Love You"
4. "Detlef Schrempf"
5. "Cigarettes, Wedding Bands"

8 out of 10 Stars

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