Cease To Begin – Band of Horses
Essentially a condensed how-to manual for indie rock splendor, Cease To Begin unfolds itself along a narrow but expertly laid path, warm and uncoiled. Like its predecessor, Everything All The Time, Cease continues Band of Horses’ experimentation with heavily adorned melodies and a knack for big, sinuously dramatic songs about finding life and holding on. For better or worse this is indie rock at its shiniest, but unlike Everything, this one ceases to be as much fun.
With the one-two punch of “Is There A Ghost” and “Ode To LRC”, the band punches through the gate with two songs as strong as any on the album, the former building itself into a cascade of drums and guitar from simple beginnings, while “Ode TO LRC” has a gait that moves with just enough modest swagger to entice, and with Ben Bridwell singing “the world is such a wonderful place / la-da-ti-da-da” among his small town observations its hard to not be envious of such amusement, whether na or not.
“No One’s Gonna Love You” and “Detlef Schrempf” are BoH in languid mode, churning out pretty songs that are — without all the glossy reverb and shiny effects — very simple and unspecific while somehow managing to stay trapped in your head, lingering weightlessly. Which brings to mind an interesting point about this band that I’m sure has been pointed out before they can make a fluffy and light melody stick, which isn’t something just any band can do. They have a way with beauty.
“The General Specific” could be a song from The Shins’ catalogue, but it's not. In too many ways it resembles the quirky and tilted, yet polished and hopeful laments of the Band's labelmates, with perhaps more of a down-home feel. It is times like these where Band of Horses wear themselves a little thin, not from over-extending their talents, but from being perhaps too translucent with their influences and wearing out their welcome in turn. From the reverb-soaked vocals that cling in the air like a cool mist to the crashes of cymbals and walls of guitars arranged for perfect emotional response when the climax is supposed to hit, Cease To Begin feels a little to polished for its own good.
With a producer like Phil Ek (Built To Spill, The Shins) who is clearly capable at meshing big beautiful rocking sounds into cohesive and engaging pieces of fidelity (check out Built To Spill’s Keep It Like A Secret), you would think this would be a great sounding album. You would be right. The problem is that with all the corners and rough edges rubbed off, it’s hard to find something to really grasp a hold of.
But, amongst this clean splendor lies a transparent honesty. Even if the sentiments aren’t absorbed, the feelings they emote stay intact. “Window Blues” paints a forlorn picture of love that is as engaging as it is relaxing, with Bridwell’s vocals sailing through the air without a bump in the road. As the banjo rolls slowly along, we are eased out at the end of this short record with a sense of peace. Whether or not Cease To Begin is a success or not, Band of Horses are at the very least, bringing a little beauty into the world.