Having trouble forgiving Mat Brooke for leaving Band of Horses? I’m not. Last year’s “Cease to Begin” was extraordinary, and it suffered not a whit from his absence. Besides, if Brooke hadn’t left BoH behind, he could not have formed The Grand Archives. And in so doing, he would have deprived us all of the first near-perfect album of 2008.
In many ways, “The Grand Archives” is the exact opposite of a Band of Horses album: It is bright, sunny, optimistic, sweet, and lacks any hint of menace. At the same time, it is similar to BoH because it is an album, not a collection of songs. It is also that rare creature that can be upbeat
without being pop. Despite the light lead guitar and the multi-layered harmonies, there’s nothing here that I’d call catchy here. Every track is full-bodied, with enough substance to stick to your ribs long after you’ve heard it. And when you hear it all together, end to end, you will be blown away.
The band released their demo last year, but those tunes have been significantly reworked. Lead track “Torn Blue Foam Couch,” for example, now has piano and horns, and all of those songs are now clean and crisp, with more layers. The charm of the demos had been how simple and moving the songs were, but they still have that appeal, even with all of the added instrumentation.