Band of Horses - Cease to Begin (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Band of Horses

Cease to Begin (2007)

Sub Pop

Band of Horses became critical darlings with their 2006 debut, Everything All the Time. Fashion a Neil Young influence with a more muscular take on the light, accessible indie pop of the Shins and you had a complete, surefire winner on your hands. That album was actually recorded in 2005, though, so Cease to Begin doesn't follow it up as quickly as one would think; therefore, there's a healthy spectrum of change that takes place (as a two-year hibernation would seemingly allot for). That and the key departure of co-founder Mat Brooke.

The first single, "Is There a Ghost" opens Cease to Begin in gorgeous fashion. Everything you could ask for and more in a pop song is here -- the Shins comparison is still heartily present, and there's quite some repetition abound, but Ben Bridwell's delivery of "I could sleep / I could slee-eeep / when I lived alone / is there a ghost in my house?" rides a pulsating riff and is terrifically engaging and hard to resist singing along with.

It's too bad the rest of the album can't quite compete with its lead-off batter, but Band of Horses manage some impressive moments -- and their lyrical pen is stretched a bit further. Ornamental guitars of the Temporary Residence Ltd. variety decorate the precious "No One's Gonna Love You," while they ring in the upbeat jangle-pop of "Islands on the Coast."

The instrumentation here is generally less ornate than Everything, with the band usually relying on guitar, bass and drums. Gone are the banjos and pedal steels that decorated that album. But that type of simpler fashioning makes Cease to Begin a linear, smooth listen, as much as it drains the band of their alt-country overtones. However, "The General Specific" is spiced up with some plinked piano keys, and they serve some grounding for "Marry Song," which is transformed into a pure ol' down-home ballad thanks to Bridwell's heavy twang.

It's curious to see how Cease to Begin will be received by both critic and fan. Changes in the guard may have stripped down Band of Horses a bit and caused them to spill forth a lighter, breezier affair than usual, but it's an enjoyable and accomplished one at that.

Is There a Ghost

Eight-tenths, for some reason, of Cease to Begin