By EW Staff
October 15, 2007 at 08:23 PM EDT

As you may remember, about two weeks ago, I provided my early ballot for the best albums of 2007. It was a list comprised mostly of bands that usually fly under the mainstream radar but tend to find their way onto critics’ “Best of” lists by year’s end. I was impressed with the number of responses and with your quality suggestions, which I had either egregiously forgotten or had just plain missed myself.

But there are three months left before the ball drops in Times Sqaure, meaning albums will continue to trickle in that may not find the attention they deserve, even in EW, where we try to be comprehensive. Which brings me to a release this week that got lost in the EW flurry of album advances: Band of Horses’ Cease to Begin. You can listen to the entire CD here on the band’s MySpace page.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting this band’s second release since last year’s Everything All the Time finally overplayed itself on my iPod. Some reductive critics oversimplified the band as merely a derivative of reverb-heavy, pre-Z Jim James vocals and high-tensile guitars a la Neil Young & Crazy Horse, but Ben Bridwell’s echo-y Southern vox did manage to make my roadtrips fly by. The band relocated from Seattle to South Carolina for Cease to Begin, yet they apparently left behind the cacophonus banjo that made the elegiac “Monsters” so scary and the addictive bass line that cut so deep through “Swords.”

As the Brits say, this album’s a “grower” in the strictest sense, andI’m still mulling over tracks like “Ode to LRC” and “Islands on theCoast.” So for the time being, I suggest just skipping to thecountrified anthem “The General Specific” and my anchor track “DetlefSchrempf.” (Couldn’t they have at least called it Shawn Kemp, though,or even Gary Payton? Indie kids. Jeez.)

Anyway, PopWatchers, what are your early thoughts on the album? IsBridwell sorely missing guitarist Mat Brooke, who is now with Grand Archives? Or is the album not even worth year-end best-list consideration?