Band Of Horses
When a band with Ben Bridwell (guitar/vocals) and Mat Brooke (guitar) bit the dust the two then launched Horses in '04. Adding Rob Hampton (bass/guitar) and Creighton Barrett (drums), the then Seattle-based band (who relocated to South Carolina) changed their name to Band Of Horses.
Making some noise locally Band Of Horses were signed by Sub-Pop (also based in the rain capital of North America). Their debut full-length album, "Everything All The Time," was recorded the following year and released in '06. The set made Band Of Horses an indie Rock success story.
Being a hot indie band is a great place to be. There's credibility (in not being a major label sell-out), the critics are generally enthused and encouraging (their sniping comes with commercial success) and the feeling everything is on the upswing. But occasionally there's a band member who isn't happy with that. Band Of Horses made a summer '06 appearance on Late Night with David Letterman without Brooke. Less than two weeks later it was announced that he had departed for his other group, Grand Archives, who were also a Sub-Pop band.
Band Of Horses continued, releasing their sophomore effort, "Cease To Begin" in October, '07. The album was recorded in North Carolina with Ryan Moore handling keyboards. He became a permanent member following the album's completion. Guitarist/vocalist Tyler Ramsey and bassist Bill Reynolds were also added making the band a sextet.
Work began in '09 on Band Of Horses next album, tentatively titled "Night Rainbows." But before the project got underway, Hampton left. He was replaced by Swedish guitarist Ludwig Boss but he proved to be a short (very short) timer so the album was recorded by Bridwell, Ramsey, Reynolds, Monroe and Barrett.
Following world tours opening for Pearl Jam and Snow Patrol, Band Of Horses third studio effort arrived in '10. "Night Rainbows" was dropped as the title in favor of "Infinite Arms."
The album entered the UK chart at #21, giving Band Of Horses their first UK chart hit. On the other side of the Atlantic, the album debuted at #7 on the Billboard 200, which was the group's best showing to date. The album also made just about every music publication's "Best Albums of 2010" list but usually placed mid-pack.
Also, "Life On Earth," an outtake, was included on the soundtrack for the Twilight Saga film Eclipse.
Led by the song "Knock, Knock," Band Of Horses' fourth album "Mirage Rock" landed in the fall of '12.
A stop in Nashville a year later resulted in "Acoustic At The Ryman," which dropped in '14. The virtual greatest hits, live and acoustic set, was culled from two performances at the legendary Ryman Auditorium.
"Why Are You OK," a '16 studio release, contained the single "Casual Party."
2006 Everything All The Time
2007 Cease To Begin
2010 Infinite Arms
2012 Mirage Rock
2014 Acoustic At The Ryman
2016 Why Are You OK
Band Of Horses play mood music - emotive in a low-key, unobtrusive way. It's there but not really. Perfect for a soundtrack. Little surprise the group's songs have been heard on The O.C. ("The End's Not Near"). Is there one 'thoughtful, lyrically evocative' group that hasn't had at least one song on that TV show? Band Of Horses has also been played on One Tree Hill ("The Funeral").
"Everything All The Time" starts with the ethereal "The First Song." But once that's out of the way, the more upbeat and lean "Wicked Gil" and "Our Swords" roll out. But these engaging songs are in a deep shade compared to "Weed Party." This jaunty, entertaining track, led to all the "next big thing" noise. Bridwell's plaintive vocals are most effective when they don't dwell or drag. Folk and other acoustic elements are incorporated on the slower songs and accent the group's predominately unhurried approach.
Songs unwind and wander to the choruses on "Cease To Begin." Uncharacteristically, "Is There A Ghost" opens the set with a burning guitar and some genuine energy. There's also the jaunty fun of "The General Specific." Aside from the chunky "Ode To LRC" and "Islands On The Coast," the album slows appreciably.
For all the communal talk associated with bands, they are usually closer to an autocracy. A member or two is usually calling the shots. Additionally, bandmates are notorious for pulling rank often based on tenure or accomplishments (they wrote or sang the group's 'big' hit). With Bridwell, always one of the group's creative forces and now the only remaining original member, it wouldn't be shocking if he took the reins and everyone else followed. Surprisingly, that's not the case. All band members contributed to the writing "Infinite Arms." That turned out to be an enlightened and successful undertaking.
There's Moody Blues grandeur (set opener "Factory") and The Band's loose Rock ("Compliments") but mostly Band Of Horses chart their own course and are better for it. "Laredo" and the brilliant "NW Apt." provide the energy (along with "Compliments"). The pop oriented "Dilly," the mid-tempo "Older" and "On My Way Back Home" are sure as sure shots get. The title track, a gorgeous ballad, confirms that the band is hitting on all cylinders.
"Knock Knock," the lead track on "Mirage Rock" is an aberration. The R.E.M. styled track is great - probably one of the best songs, if not the best, on the album. It's just that there isn't anything else like it (though "Feud" comes closest).
Nearly all "Mirage Rock" songs fall into one of two categories: Those channeling Crosby, Stills & Nash ("Slow Cruel Hands Of Time" and "Shut-In Tourist") and those using solo acoustic Neil Young as a touchstone ("Dumpster World," "Everything's Gonna Be Undone" and "Long Vows"). That Band Of Horses pull off both is impressive, but still, the album could use more R.E.M. indie Rock and a shot or two of Young's godfather of Grunge.