Band of Horses has been, for me, one of those bands that I liked, but never really got into in depth. They’ve always been kind of “The Shins Lite” for me, with Ben Bridwell‘s vocals settling somewhere in between James Mercer‘s whine and Built to Spill‘s Doug Martsch‘s lazy warble. Sure, “The First Song” is on the tracklist of my “Christmas Songs that Don’t Suck” playlist. I can appreciate it when I catch “The Funeral” playing on one of my favorite television shows. And every now and then, I’ll girl-out to “No One’s Gonna Love You“. But you can’t tell me that each of these three songs isn’t eerily reminiscent of “Caring is Creepy”.
So, when listening to Infinite Arms, I was pleasantly surprised. Gone is the high-pitched strain of albums past, save a couple of songs. It’s as harmonious as Fleet Foxes, it’s as foot-stomping as My Morning Jacket. It’s as endearing as Iron & Wine, as country as Avett Brothers. And yet somehow, when put all together, Band of Horses creates a sound that’s melodic and beautiful, and is a sound all their own.
“Factory” is the string-laden goosebump-inducing opening track. ”Now and later, I was thinking about you and the snack machine, I thought about you and a candy bar. The Now & Laters that I’ve now got stuck between my teeth, I fell asleep to the greatest movie of the year…” Bridwell sings perhaps nonsensically, perhaps not. All I know is that it sounds pretty and serves well as providing hope that the songs to come will sound equally as shivery. ”Bluebeard” evokes the kind of harmonious bliss that makes you want to listen again and again. ”Dilly”, a track that sounds like someone had a lot of fun with a Casio keyboard, is the most poppy song on the album. By the time we get to “Older”, we’re in full-blown country mode. The album closes with “Neighbor”, perhaps a bit too akin to ”Dead Man’s Will” by Iron & Wine (with Calexico), but it doesn’t affect the overall tone of the record, which is Band of Horses is Band of Horses now, not just a bearded offshoot of someone else.
Infinite Arms feels a little sleepy towards the end of the album, but each of these songs is more than sufficient as a stand-alone song. And after all, who doesn’t just put songs on their iPod and hit “Shuffle All” these days? I don’t think I will be calling Band of Horses “The Shins Lite” anymore.