Band of Horses - Infinite Arms
Review by Jack Foley
BAND of Horses have long been acclaimed, but with third studio album Infinite Arms they may just have created their masterpiece.
A rich, vivid collection of 12 tracks that take in a wide array of Americana songwriters, from Nick Drake to The Beach Boys, the album is one of the most satisfyingly expansive records you’re likely to hear all year.
In making it, the band wanted to project the essence of the different locales across America that became the setting for the recording and songwriting process behind it.
Hence, their journey takes in the rich musical heritage of Muscle Shoals, AL, the sublime beauty of Asheville’s Blue Ridge Mountains, the glamorous Hollywood Hills and the vast Mojave desert, as well as the serene woods of Northern Minnesota and the band’s native Carolinas, which inspired the songwriting in the first place.
The album hooks you in from the start with the tantalising string sweep of Factory, which reflects frontman Ben’s love of Nick Drake as well as the sound of The Verve (circa Bittersweet Symphony). You could also throw in Elbow, for this is very much an American counterpart – lush, emotive, heartbreakingly beautiful.
It’s followed by the full-blooded Compliments, which blasts right out of the speakers at you in unapologetic fashion, and then another of the album’s firm highlights, Laredo, which contains one of the most thrilling slices of guitar work on the record. You could call it their Kings of Leon moment… and similar status surely now beckons!
Blue Beard opens with some lush vocal harmonising that suggests Californian sunshine, before going somewhat more melancholy with images of “a city blanketed in snow”. It’s one of a couple of songs that beguile rather than enchant.
Bill’s vocals evoke a warm sense of homecoming on the Wilson-esque On My Way Back Home, a song that’s rife with shimmering melodies, some great banjo licks and a great echoed vocal, while Infinite Arms strikes an almost ethereal quality as it talks of dreams, loneliness and living in a movie, all the while slow-building into its romantic chorus of thoughts drifting to you.
Forthcoming single Dilly is a breezy pop record that drops a catchy chorus, Evening Kitchen opens with some endearing but low-key “woo-hoo“s before serving up a dusky acoustic gem, and Older hits a lazy country swagger that’s great just for kicking back to.
Both Evening Kitchen and Older reflect the collaborative nature of the band, having been written by Tyler Ramsay (guitarist) and Ryan Munroe (keyboardist) respectively.
For Annabelle is a heartfelt ode to Bill’s daughter that’s utterly disarming, while NW Apt. drops another of the album’s pulse-quickening guitar riffs and a kick-ass back-beat that’s almost more indie in approach. It’s a proper rock out moment and a surefire crowdpleaser in waiting that recalls the brilliance of a band like Nada Surf.
And Neighbor rounds things off in classic slow-build style, drawing on a synth guitar that broadens the album’s sound still further, creating an intoxicating mix of pure piano and cracking riffs.
With Infinite Arms, Band of Horses deserve to break really big.
Download picks: Factory, Laredo, On My Way Back Home, For Annabelle, NW Apt, Neighbor