Cease to Begin

Band of Horses' debut album, Everything All the Time, released in 2006, was a surprisingly assured collection of guitar rock from a guy who, so the myth goes, had never before shown interest in singing or songwriting. Ben Bridwell had spent a decade in bands, mostly behind the drum kit for the well-loved, little-known Seattle-based band Carissa's Wierd. When the band broke up in 2003, Bridwell started tooling around with his own songs. He later brought in Mat Brooke, former front man of Carissa's and the two formed the core of Band of Horses -- with Bridwell as lead singer and songwriter. That didn't last. Brooke left the band to work on his own projects (Grand Archives, soon to be released on Sub Pop) and Bridwell, along with three remaining band members, moved from Seattle to South Carolina. Band of Horses' second record, Cease to Begin, is loaded with lyrical references to severed relationships and small-town life, set to music that invokes both the reverb-drenched Northwest indie sound and southern twang. The album opener, "Is There a Ghost in My House?," begins as a whisper before exploding into chugging guitars (as did "The Funeral," perhaps the most ubiquitous song from the band's last album); "The General Specific" is good-old-boy honky-tonk, complete with old dogs and a general store. "No one is gonna love you more than I do," sings Bridwell on the lush ballad of the same name. But given that the song begins with the image of a severed limb, followed by a chorus about "things splitting at the seams," the line seems more curse than benediction. Although Bridwell's influences -- among them Built to Spill and Neil Young -- can still be heard, his own sound is becoming solid enough to inspire its own band of imitators. -

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

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A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."