Band of Horses
Everything All the Time
e all wait. Leaves paper the walks in crumple foil, give way to blue rain, then tufts of snow. Music stains it all; we measure ourselves through our new listens. We stay indoors and hear all kinds of bumps and bruises and cologne cacophony. We dim the wind indoors. There’s always something on the horizon, something we place ahead of us in time to make today look like a mark in a larger pattern. In the space we save for that other, another, it’s a day marked off. You’ll excuse the Grey’s Anatomy generalism, but spring’s coming.
Another season climaxed. Typically, spring brings a slow unveiling of some of the year’s most anticipated discs, after the seasonal hangover of January and February and the late vacation of November and December. Band of Horses—a quartet of Seattle mainstays containing prior members of Carissa’s Weird who are coming off of popular dates with Iron and Wine—may not top DJ Martian’s, but they deserve to. You can hear in their acoustic guitars and coyote drawl the warm moist of tourmate Sam Beam, as well as the more tremulous strains of My Morning Jacket. Though we lose our winter to listen, we follow their gorgeous ballads in the ballast. It begins to make sense, in time. In fact, their soft country howl might just replace the wind for the Atlantic’s bleached bone seashores this summer.
Recorded in Seattle with Phil Ek after the success of their EP last year, Everything All the Time includes several must-hears, but the most pressing is “The Funeral.” Stolid with solitude and angst, the band grumbles around a chiming guitar and the gummy reverb of its partner, alternately clean and guttural before they hit its arcing chorus. The My Morning Jacket comparisons emerge most clearly here, though Band of Horses succeeds where MMJ failed on Z: they have fucking melodies. Lead singer Ben Bridwell chants “At every occasion, I’ll be ready for a funeral,” backed by the blue-spined swoon of both his and Mat Brooke’s dueling guitars. And then the band starts again, moving back-forward by waking up tomorrow and promising to see the same fates through, the same misses and maybes and never-agains. They show how simple it should be to make music that can put a stop to everything else for just a glance, your book down, you quit wondering just who’s in your blind spot, and stop questioning who might be squinting against the noise cramming your cubicle. These aren’t new parts, and certainly there’s nothing groundbreaking to be heard. It’s simply transfixing—death pitted past the womb, time versus the clock, crows circling the hawk kinda shit.
Paired with “The Funeral” is the saw-cut acoustic lament “Part One.” Band of Horses tames “Funeral”’s stallion waltz with a whisper in the ear. Make sure your tinny iPod phones are deep in the canal, subway dwellers; the band’s dry, brittle voicing is blunt but shy, with only acoustic guitar and plodding drums to rub off on Bridwell’s voice, sounding here like the ungodly spawn of Wayne Coyne and Perry Ferrell.
Elsewhere, Band of Horses couples its lyrical growth with wispy country smoke-songs. “I Go to the Barn Cause I Like The,” which opens with Bridwell’s stinging couplet “I’d like to think I’m a mask / You’d wear with pride,” is Roy Orbison new-birthed as a tragic indie troubadour, his shadow glasses traded for sun-creases and newt eyes, a heart too full of thistle and burn to acknowledge pretty women or, for that matter, any old tart in the blue bayou. “Monsters” matches the woeful glow of “I Go to. . .” with a stark banjo part and circling guitar, while the hypnotic closer “St. Augustine” shoulders on mourning attire for Spanish Hollywood and Vine, replete with sinewy acoustic guitars and the band’s multi-tracked harmonies.
Though Everything All the Time ain’t all blisskrieg—witness the odd coupling of “The Great Salt Lake” and “Weed Party,” during which the band reverts to the bar lounger’s formula for amp over tune—it serves as a remarkably notable debut in a year which is already proving one of this decade’s most promising. The blur is shadowing into shape again, leaving us something to love as we wait for that next other through spring.