With the triumph of their much-loved debut propelling them for over a year, Band of Horses regroup for their glossier second album. Clearly recorded with more popular aspirations than Everything All the Time was afforded, Cease To Begin has a far more deliberate, yet friendlier, sound. With singer Ben Bridwell's now-signature wail dominating their music, the band has turned the screws on an even tighter sound.
The album quickly begins on a powerful swell in "Is There a Ghost". Bridwell's vocals don't elaborate much throughout the track and don't quite get off the ground, but the crushing slow burn of the pounding music behind him provides the lift. "Ode To LRC" is even more radio-ready, mixing grunge, country, and "La Dee Dah" in a rolling, mini-anthem. The mood of the album continues to tone down with the shimmering ballad, "No One's Gonna Love You". "Detlef Schrempf" has a dark organ intro ushered in by a slow snare, while vocals harmonize Grand Ol' Opry-style. "The General Specific" carries a similar, low-key tune as the first half of the album finishes on a quiet note.
The second half is more diverse, and not as noticeably headed down a certain path. "Lam On the Lam (In the City)" is a stomping clapper driven by a swinging acoustic guitar that screams "hoedown". "Islands On the Coast" is a short, chilly, electric guitar interlude before the spiraling fever of "Marry Song". "Cigarettes, Wedding Bands" is a moody electric rocker that get swallowed by cymbals, then "Window Blues" finishes Cease To Begin on a peaceful note in a mix of slide, electric, and acoustic guitars.
With Cease To Begin, the alt-country popsters roll along with a more mature album than their first. With a little less free spirit than before, and more intent towards maintaining the radio invitations, the band extends a warm hand with a solid grip. They cover all of their bases, again, for sure.