Is Jazz Fest changing its tune? Buried among the 2010 lineup's familiar local favorites and lifetime-achievement honorees are indications that the festival's longstanding, overly reverential approach to booking rock acts may be opening its doors to more national new-fashioned practitioners. This year's sect — led by My Morning Jacket, Dead Weather and Elvis Perkins — is perhaps best epitomized by South Carolina's Band of Horses, which in five years has gone from playing coffeehouse shows with prefame folk-whisperer Iron & Wine to opening an arena tour for fest cohorts and childhood idols Pearl Jam.
Much of the band's soaring, anthemic appeal was apparent from the start. Singer/guitarists Ben Bridwell and Mat Brooke so impressed a Sub Pop rep during a 2004 gig that the Pacific Northwest label reissued its debut EP and signed the newborn band to a multi-album deal. Following — and in some respects, fusing — Iron & Wine and the Shins, Band of Horses' two Sub Pop LPs, 2005's Everything All the Time and 2007's Cease to Begin, were standard-bearers of the imprint's dominance of commercially viable indie rock over the past decade. Even Brooke's departure (between the two records, to launch another Sub Pop outfit, Grand Archives) did nothing to diminish the Horses' impact; Cease to Begin in fact sounds like a more polished, perfected version of its impressive predecessor, its reverb-colored guitar crescendos begetting ever-greater skyscraping vocal hooks.
Sixteen months in the making, Infinite Arms (Brown/Columbia/Fat Possum) marks its own departure for the band. The third platter, due in May, has been called by Bridwell "the first Band of Horses record" — it's the first not to appear on Sub Pop, the first to be produced and funded by the band, and the first to feature the now-established five-piece touring lineup. First single "Factory" doesn't possess the tidal pull of the Horses' best material, but it retains the same starry-eyed sense of wonder that made "The First Song" and "No One's Gonna Love You" more than mere ballads. — Noah Bonaparte Pais
Band of Horses
2:35 p.m. Saturday, May 1, Gentilly Stage