Band of Horses: Infinite Arms (Brown/Fat Possum/Columbia) 

A label change and a long, labored recording process left Band of Horses just about where it started—with an instantly compelling indie Americana sound.

Infinite Arms has such a promising start—with the dreamy "Factory," "Compliments" (the album's first single) and the fuzzy guitar riff and sing-along chorus of "Laredo"—that Band of Horses' third album sounds as if it could be the band's best.

But the middle stretch is made of songs that, while characteristically pristine and polished, are relaxed nearly to the point of being forgettable soft rock. In fact, when the power-pop chug of "NW Apt." begins, it's the album's most refreshing moment, a shift in tempo and tone that breaks the spell of too many pedal-steel ballads.

It's hard not to read too much into one of the lines on the breakup tale "Evening Kitchen"—"This bottle of wine is to slow down my mind," which, out of context, goes a long way toward describing the album.

Infinite Arms is Band of Horses' slowest record, and it also feels like the band's slightest. Those moments of big release that turn tranquil songs into epics defined the band's first two albums. This time, only "Neighbor," the record's closing and longest track, offers such a release, with a somber piano yielding to big power chords and a shouted chorus.

Infinite Arms has what should be plenty of fantastic moments, but—saddled with impossibly high expectations—it's a very good album that follows two excellent ones.

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