When Band of Horses surfaced in 2006 with Everything All the Time, the band's rugged take on rock and roll drew quick parallels to My Morning Jacket and early Neil Young. That's mighty nice company for a young band, but co-founder Mat Brooke nevertheless left the lineup that same summer, choosing to blaze his own trail with Grand Archives instead. Ben Bridwell, Brooke's musical partner for nearly a decade, was left in control of Horses - a daunting position for the former Carissa's Weird bassist, but one that ultimately resulted in a sophisticated, mature, and altogether superior follow-up. Cease to Begin is the responsible adult to Time's reckless teenager, with Bridwell pitting his high, clear tenor against backdrops of hazy indie rock and campfire singalongs. While tracks like Weed Party showed the band having harmless (albeit adolescent) fun on their debut, the good times on Cease to Begin are more grown-up: a lo-fi, foot-stomping pop ditty (The General Specific), a brief interlude of instrumental watercolors (Lamb on the Lam [In the City]), a detour into twangy country (Marry Song). Those looking for more anthemic rock will gravitate toward kickoff track Is There a Ghost, where the guitars are loud and Bridwell's vocals are candy-coated in reverb, but Cease to Begin shines it brightest under the twilight glow of Detlef Schrempf. Historically, Schrempf was a German-born NBA basketball player with killer three-point accuracy - and while that's certainly an odd choice for a song title, it's easy to forget as drums beat a lazy rhythm beneath Bridwell's falsetto. Who knows whether he's singing to a hometown, a loved one, or his favorite member of the Seattle SuperSonics? It's still a thrilling listen, and the subtle humor hints that Band of Horses isn't growing up too quickly.
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