Band of Horses 

Cease to Begin

Phil Ek's at it again – helping steer guitar-heavy indie rock's evolution from early '90s Built to Spill to late '90s Modest Mouse and now, among others in 2007, Band of Horses. Cease to Begin, the group's (minus founding member Mat Brooke) follow-up to 2006's acclaimed, Ek-produced debut Everything All the Time, continues to mix the ethereal ("Detlef Schrempf") with the anthemic ("Islands on the Coast"). Lead singer Ben Bridwell's voice, while still cloaked in reverb, manages to sound crisper and more purposeful. Good old-fashioned country-song regret inhabits a number of tracks: "I've been a fool/No revelations in the water/No tears into the booze" ("Window Blues"); as do ruminations on what could have been: "Lucky ones are we all 'til it is over" ("Marry Song"). Bridwell is broken-hearted, busy assessing mistakes and looking for reconciliation. It's tragic, it's heart-wrenching, and it makes for a great album. 4 stars

Band of Horses plays the Earl Fri.-Sat., Dec. 28-29, and Mon., Dec. 31 (sold out), and Sun., Dec. 30, 7 p.m. $20.

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