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. -

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