band of horses

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Top 10 2006; 9

Band Of Horses
Everything All the Time
Sub Pop
I Go To the Barn Because I Like the

I put Band of Horses into my top ten to prove that I’m a liar. I always tell myself that lyrics make the music, and if they’re no good, then the music fails. But deep down in my heart I know it’s not true. I also know that millions of folks out there place little to no value on the lyrical quality of music. Some even listen to (gasp!) pieces that are completely instrumental. And it would be a shame to give into my first impulse and dismiss “Everything” based simply on Bridwell’s garbledy lyrics.

As justification, I use an article I read at The Red Alert. The interviewer, Adam McKibben, addresses this very point (conveniently):

McKibben: I wanted to get your take on something one reviewer said: basically, he wrote that your lyrics are deliberately impressionistic, that there’s no lyric sheet because the listener isn;t really meant to follow along with the words.

Bridwell: Yeah, that would be correct. There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors with the way I try to express things, just to kind of let the listener choose their own kind of adventure. Or let them find different meanings by garbling some words here and there. In the demos, I did a lot more of that, but Phil was pretty insistent on my enunciation. I mean, I knew what I was talking about, but I try to leave a little mystery there.

First of all, Phil, whoever you are: thanks from the bottom of my tiny, ice-encrusted heart. Second, let’s get the mean things out of the way: I think that in part, “leaving the mystery” is a cop-out. The interview also says that “Everything” is Bridwell’s first turn at songwriting, even though this is his second band. I’ve spent a lot of time in textual analysis, and “I knew what I was talking about” is often enough an excuse on the writer’s part in order not to have to explain him or herself. Add in Bridwell’s mushy delivery, and there’s a lot of breakdown between the medium and the message.

But what’s the message anyway? If I take Bridwell at face value, then the smooshiness and the repetetive, blanky lyrics are all deliberate. (For instance: If ever beat down, we know who we are / They know we all want more, from “The Great Salt Lake,” or Count on us all stepping on our own toes tonight from “Our Swords”). And if the message is known only by the singer, then it’s perfectly writerly: listeners are free to impose their own interpretation, or, likelier, to ignore interpretation altogether. This goes completely against my grain. I can barely do it — you see how I just spent three paragraphs talking about lyrics even though Bridwell doesn’t care if I do or not.

Maybe instead of superanalysis, the listener needs to treat “Everything” like a Pissarro or a Morisot — step back, squint a little, and take it in without thinking too hard. Impressionist music, to misuse a term, seems to invite the listener to hear how sound creates ambience. Bridwell’s distinctive voice; the slow, silky harmony on “Saint Augustine”; the bits of phrase that float up to the surface once in awhile; the blippy guitar that leads “Funeral” and then the beat kickstarting what could arguably be my most popular song of 2006 (certainly I listened to it about five million times). This is as close to shoegaze as I ever get, and it’s enjoyable, as long as I step outside my comfort zone and take the disc for what it is, rather than what I wish it were.


A million little ticky links to get out there:


At Mars Needs Guitars, U2 Live Madison Sq. Garden, Oct 25, 2001:

Part One

Part Two

At Rbally, REM at at the National Bowl July 30, 1995

Part One

Part Two

At Kwaya Na Kisser, The Arcade Fire live at Vegoose last year


vide for Band of Horses’ “The Funeral”

video for Mountain Goats’ “Woke Up New”


Via Best Week Ever, How the Nazis Gave Us Disco, a look at the role of the DJ during WWII.

Via, Top 50 Movie Endings. Spoilers, obviously :D

Via People magazine, we learn that Chris Robinson and Kate Hudson are breaking up. Gwyneth and Gwen better look out.

Vegoose 2006 has announced its lineup. Looks like good stuff.


On Myspace, you can preview tracks for the Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack, which is oh so indier than you.

Via Goodhodgkins, a new album from Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. I have not heard this band personally, but they are indie darlings. And it’s good to know that someone still loves Boris Yeltsin.

Mountain Goats have some new fall tour dates.

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