REVIEW: Band of Horses, Cease to Begin, Sub Pop

41XswBEKz1L._AA240_ On paper Band of Horses seems like it would be a hideously boring mess: mid-tempo rock drenched in gratuitous reverb all with more than a hint of twang. But Ben Bridwell’s idiosyncratic execution of such a simple formula catapulted his band to the upper echelon of Sub Pop’s prestigious roster, alongside The Shins and mentors Iron & Wine with its unassuming debut, Everything All the Time. Bridwell and former bandmate Mat Brooke took an earnest approach to indie rock, relying on unpretentious themes, laid-back performance, and sincere lyrics. The results surpassed any and all expectations, as the band found itself in extremely high demand from frat boys to unapproachable elitists thanks to its defining anthemic single, “The Funeral.”

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Distorted and Jaded

I recently read that the new Magnetic Fields album, Distortion, was recorded in less than a month and was based on Stephin’s desire to make an album of songs that all sounded the same but weren’t “boring,” like a Jesus and Mary Chain album or an album “more Jesus and Mary Chain than the Jesus and Mary Chain.” Merritt has made no secret of his appreciation for the JAMC sound over the years.

Merritt once declared

“The only record of the last ten years that isn’t trying to sound ‘live’ or ‘real’ (in an idealized form, since no recording is actually live) is the Jesus and Mary Chain’s Psychocandy.”

As a JAMC fan and 15 year devout member of the church of Merritt, I was pretty psyched to hear this rumored homage. Upon acquisition of the forthcoming record, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed. Not only is Claudia singing a lot, which is never a good thing in my book*, but the entire album just feels weak. flimsy. There are still clever turns of phrase here and there, but they’re few and far between, a rare thing for a Magnetic Fields record. And while Stephin definitely managed to capture the JAMC sonic ethos, he seems to have forgotten to imbue the songs with pathos, something the Reid brothers always managed.

Here is Please Stop Dancing – Magnetic Fields, one of a couple tracks on Distortion that I find tolerable.

*Claudia is a wonderful person and I have nothing personal against her, I just don’t like her as a vocalist. Never have.

p.s. StephinSources is a treasure trove of random stephiness for obsessed fans, courtesy of the guy that brought the world StephinSongs.

Shitty By Association

If merely lying down with them is cause enough for fleas, then those who – of their own volition no less – agree to lip synch to one of the worst songs by one of the biggest, mangiest bitches since Cujo deserve nothing less than the beheading of their first born by spoon and their respective urethras injected with Freddie Mercury-sized AIDS.

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