By Allison Stewart
"Infinite Arms," Band of Horses' third album and major label debut, was supposed to be their Big Moment, the album that did for them what "Evil Urges" did for My Morning Jacket: Which is to say, turn them from a beloved indie band into a moderately recognizable crossover success story.
But "Arms" underwhelms. It's not bad, just drowsy and hook-less and remote, as if the band didn't perform these songs so much as swat at them idly as they floated by. Band of Horses songs can usually be divided into two types: country-ish folk songs that suggest a less jammy and psychedelic Built to Spill fronted by Neil Young; and anthemic tracks like "The Funeral," with the stadium choruses and ringing guitars of a backwoods U2.
The group's past two discs served up both, in almost equal helpings, but "Infinite Arms" focuses on mellow, small-scale songs to exclusion of virtually all else. For every would-be barnburner like "Factory" (which evokes the best moments from the band's debut, "Everything All the Time"), there are several sound-alike mid-tempo tracks like "Blue Beard" (Beach Boys harmonies, done '70s style).
Most bands use their big-league breakthrough discs to, you know, break through. But "Infinite Arms" is a work of surpassing stubbornness, if nothing else: a great big punt of an album that is more interested in deflating the band's sound than in puffing it up, an idea as ill-advised as it is admirable. It's the rarest of rock-and-roll animals, a major label debut that doesn't sell out enough.
Recommended tracks: "Factory," "NW Apt."