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I Love Rock & Roll: Current Bands Worthy of Attention Part 3: Band of Horses
I hear the phrase uttered often, "There are no good Rock & Roll Bands any more" and there has been recent talk about the death of mainstream rock and roll. Over the next few weeks I will highlight 4 modern day groups that deserve attention from young and old fans of mainstream Rock and Roll.
If there were still great rock and roll radio channels for free out there these bands would be getting much bigger recognition then they already have. These aren't indie acts, they aren't no-names, they are just a reminder that there is some really great rock and roll music being produced and you will be able to grab all of it from our catalog.
Next up: Band of Horses.
For the first part of the series we had a band who is in line with literary rockers of the past, our second act dealt more with pop rock leanings, and for our third part we mix in a bit of down home folk-y goodness to the rock and roll formula.
Band of Horses sound like long lost friends when they start playing their collection of hearty tunes, they have been called things like Southern Rock or Alt-Country, but in reality their sound takes from a little bit of everywhere making them true Rock and Roll mutts.
The band first became nationally known when they opened for Iron & Wine back in 2005 and played the Late Show with David Letterman here in New York shortly after. The band has withstood a few changes of personal especially in the early days, but the overall sound has remained consistent; soaring vocals, big guitars, anthemic drums all designed for arenas, balanced by delicate flourishes that reel the listener in.
Having a natural feel to their songs adds an organic sense of connectedness, but the band doesn't go that way with acoustic offerings, they can rev things up with boiling six-strings and thunderous drums in order to create palpable moods.
The group has an amazing vocal presence provided by lead singer/songwriter Ben Bridwell, who evokes a wide range of feelings through his voice and lyrics. While musically they are vastly different, comparisons can be drawn between Bridwell's singing/lyrics and David Byrne's. Both have wonderfully unique voices and tend to focus their lyrical matter on simple things, thus elevating them with elongated vocal phrasing or out and out spiritual proclamations. Neither lyricist will make you feel too much if you just read their work on a piece of paper, but when presented in their intended ways it can be magical.
Currently to go along with Bridwell, Tyler Ramsey plays lead guitar, Bill Reynolds on Bass, Creighton Barrett on drums and keyboard/guitarist/jack of all trades Ryan Monroe rounds things out. The band seems to be gelling more and more as a five piece with harmonizing, dueling guitar runs (sometimes three axes duking it out) and tender piano ballads all providing a sum greater than its parts.
Back in 2007 the group was already discussing increasing their fan base from Indie Rock insiders to a more broad base and with their recent show at Madison Square Garden opening for My Morning Jacket they are certainly fulfilling their goals. With a new album in the works this is a very exciting time for Band of Horses, but lets take a look back first at their past efforts that you can check out of the library.
First: Cease to Begin (2007 Sub Pop)
The band shot to instant fame with their first release while living and playing in Seattle, then retreated back to Bridwell's native South Carolina to record their follow up, 2007's Cease to Begin. What spun out of that southern studio was easy rock that could kick up the crunch or ease down like a sunset or a backwoods breeze. Bridwell's reverb voice focused on daily life, but rarely have such simple songs rang so true. "No Ones Gonna Love You" is as basic as it gets and still packs quite a wallop for a ballad, while "Cigarette's Wedding Bands" crashes the party then waltzes around the room. The album just feels right in every aspect, a neat trick.
Next: Infinite Arms (2010 Brown Records)
After two successful albums on the famous Sub Pop label, the band went to work on their third without any assistance from a label — deciding to self fund the project instead. A Grammy Nomination and multiple worldwide tours later it is safe to say that was a wise investment from the band. The revolving nature of the group has eased and the current day 5-piece could get together and make a real band album. Again lyrics aren't going to bowl you over, but they are improving while the relaxed sound tilted even more to the south-west with this release. "Compliments" prove the band can still rock, but the group seemed to hit its stride with its back porch inspired numbers like "Dilly" with its circus like vocal harmonies and pulsing production, it even had a cool video:
Everything All The Time (2006 Sub Pop) The album that launched them on the scene, originally recorded with ex-member Mat Brooke the album has the roots of what the group does best. Glorious highs like on the first single "The Funeral" that simply soar when played in a live setting, delicate playing and vocal arraignments on "St. Augustine," and a grooving rocker that floats along in "The Great Salt Lake." Quite a way to kick off a career.
Stay tuned for the final installment of next week in this series, until then have any Band of Horses stories? Think we are way off base with this one? Feel free to comment below.