Plenty of “American Idol” aspirants can sustain stratospheric notes of seemingly endless duration. But acts who truly soar and fashion songs so sweeping that the listener feels they may get carried away in an updraft? Scarce.
Seattle’s Band Of Horses is one such rarity. They could be called Band Of Winged Horses. No, wait…a horse with wings is a Pegasus, which sounds like a bad prog-rock act. And while BOH displays ambitious reach, they never fall prey to the excessive indulgences of Hawkwind or ELP. In fact, despite the expansive vibe, only two out of ten tracks on Everything All The Time run past the five-minute mark.
Guitarist-vocalist Ben Bridwell and bassist Mat Brooke are veterans of moody art-rock ensemble Carissa’s Wierd. (They also share close ties to Iron & Wine, with whom BOH toured in 2005.) What the duo lacks in size, it makes up for in sonic scale. The modestly titled “The First Song”, full of ringing guitars and high-pitched — but not whiny — vocals, sets the album’s overall tone; fans of both Neil Young and Mercury Rev will approve. There are scaled-back numbers, too, such as the dusty “St. Augustine”.
But the group excels when it goes full throttle. The gossamer licks and soft vocal “oohs” of “The Funeral” explode suddenly, just when the listener starts to be lulled into submission. The standout “Great Salt Lake” is structured so its elongated verse gives way to moments of quiet suspension, in turn ushering in a largely wordless chorus.
Band Of Horses makes gripping music, of epic-feeling proportions, without wearing out their welcome. Now that’s progressive.