Band of Horses' lyrics are drenched in utopian platitudes ("Lucky ones are we all till it is over") and cringe-worthy pillow talk ("When you smile, the sun it peaks through the clouds"). The weakest songs seem ready for a campfire sing-along; the group's touring bassist, Bill Reynolds, even comes from a jam band background. So it was odd that the band's debut, Everything All The Time, was one of last year's meatiest, most devastating rock albums. It's an even bigger surprise that Cease to Begin is nearly as good. Legendary Seattle producer Phil Ek (the Shins, Built to Spill, Modest Mouse) gets everything right here, from frontman Ben Bridwell's reverb-drenched vocals, to the quick guitar stops and starts. Perfect pacing is what makes songs like "Cigarettes Wedding" and "Is There a Ghost" so satisfying. Sure, sometimes you wish Bridwell would simply shut up. On "Ode to LRC," he sings (many, many times): "The world is such a wonderful place." But just when you think the song is going to choke on its own saccharine platitudes, the soaring, insatiable hook kicks in, and you suddenly begin to think maybe he's not wrong.
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