Listening to Band of Horses' stunning debut, Everything All the Time, it's almost impossible not to hear echoes of the Shins and My Morning Jacket. They're no mere copycats; it's just that they forge their sound from the same familiar elements the pitch-perfect pop songcraft of their Sub Pop labelmates, the anthemic rock of Jim James' hairy brethren, and the lonesome reverb-soaked ballads favored by both acts. A lesser band would crumble under such comparisons, but repeated listens to BoH's debut continually reveal new strengths, from the melancholy lyrics and heartbreaking tenor of singer-guitarist Ben Bridwell to the band's meticulously thoughtful arrangements, which push and pull the songs to majestic highs. Opener "The First Song" unveils itself over a bed of shimmering guitar and lap steel, while "Our Swords" foregoes guitars almost entirely for a pair of heavily delayed basses. "Part One" and "I Go to the Barn Because I Like The" (not a typo) show the band is capable of delicate balladry (something Bridwell and guitarist Mat Brooke nearly perfected in their former band, the Northwestern indie-folk group Carissa's Weird), but it's melancholy anthems like "The Great Salt Lake" and "The Funeral" that cement the case for what may just be the best new band you'll hear this year.
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