Last week I posted some initial thoughts on a few albums that I have been keeping in the regular rotation. One of them was the (personally) highly anticipated release by Band of Horses "Infinite Arms". My initial take was an unsurprisingly disappointed look at the band's new direction.
As a long time fan of the band a short but necessary historical look at the band's discography will provide context to my defense of my initial reaction, as well as support my second take. The initial make up of the band consisted of lead man Ben Bridwell's delicate lyrical crooning and Mat Brooke's powerful guitar pop. "Everything all the time" is filled with both these guys trying to one up the other's grandiose.
But when the two visionaries didn't see eye to eye Bridwell packed up his banjo, the band name, and headed back home to South Carolina. There is where Cease to Begin was born, and it's easy to tell with tracks that harken small town America, and simple southern lifestyle. At the time of it's release my infatuation with the epic ballads of EatT craved more of the same. Cease to Begin did not feed this craving well, which as is usually the case ... hunger makes people cranky. Eventually though, the softer craftsmanship on CtB began to shine through until a more thorough and full appreciation of the album led to a spot on the mantle next to EatT.
It's not hard to figure where I'm going with this.
So after a full week of continuing to give Infinite Arms a chance the album has finally began cracking the shell. Where as one can see EatT as a duet, and CtB as a solo, Infiinite Arms provides a new chapter in the band by truly being a BAND album. Unlike previous albums this one is filled with songs where multiple instruments stand out. Keyboard/piano, steel guitar, banjo, and even a synth or two have taken a turn being featured here. And while it's hard to deny the simple brilliance of songs like "For Annabelle" and "Blue Beard" which disassemble the notion that Bridwell has fallen off (at all), it's still a necessary and enjoyable evolution into songs like "Compliments" and "Laredo".
My initial distaste was being unfamiliar with the band's new fuller sound, and almost an homage to the simplicity of the previous efforts. However a band must grow or else they'll get bored and dissolve. The fact that the album turned out like this should have been easy to guess. As last year's Bonnaroo set showed Bridwell is having a damn good time jamming with his friends as his stage show featured upwards of 7 members all rocking their asses off for the crowd.
And that's what this album is. Bridwell earned his place, showed the world his talent, and now just wants to have fun making music with his friends. While not all the songs on Infinite Arms are going to cause lighters to be thrust into the dark night air, they might however cause one to throw their arm over the shoulder of the one they're with perhaps signaling the idea to be passed along ... and along ... and along into infinite arms.