Grand Archives - The Grand Archives (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Grand Archives

The Grand Archives (2008)

Sub Pop

The departure of Mat Brooke from Band of Horses had a fairly major effect on the band's songwriting and overall style. When Brooke worked in conjunction with his other main man, Ben Bridwell, we were met with pedal steel diddling, countrifried indie pop, but Brooke's leaving found the Band sound less possibly like the Band and more like an atmospheric wonder. So take a guess what the debut from his newest project, Grand Archives, sounds like?

Well, not exactly Neil Young or Crazy Horse, but rather acts that were paying their dues during Young's youth. Brooke still proceeds with his soft, high-pitched delivery, but musically fills out the songs with lush, dainty and obviously modern takes on `60s folk-pop and alt-country soaked jams, with frequent use of an array of instruments including harmonica, organ, brass (saxophone, trombone, French horn, trumpet, flugelhorn, violin), and, though only on two songs, yes, pedal steel. Comparisons have already been made to the Mamas & the Papas; "George Kaminski," in particular to me, seems like Brooke shooting into Beatles territory.

More often than not the album moves at a slow, nearly balladic pace. "Swan Matches" is a perfect example, and involves female guest vocals for a gendering-ly diverse performance. This makes for an ultimately pleasant but usually teethless collection of songs, causing comparative pace and mood-picker-uppers like "A Setting Sun" all the more rewarding. There's sporadic moments that might remind listeners of Brooke's former Horses, too -- take the more emotive "Sleepdriving" and its irresistible hook.

Grand Archives carry a super adult-alterna vibe through their songs, and it's a bit alienating of an air when compared to the more shuffling pace of other recent label issues (the aforementioned Band of Horses album; the Helio Sequence's Keep Your Eyes Ahead). But if one is patient, there's a fair share to appreciate on Grand Archives, and the band's unexpected experiments (the indie-big band liveliness of "The Crime Window") all the more welcomed.

Torn Blue Foam Couch

...the album's next five tracks