Band Of Horses
Band of Horses have become unquestioned forerunners in the indie rock movement. I hesitate using a descriptor like “indie rock” because of the limiting nature of placing an artist within the confines of a certain genre. Not to be put in a box, Band of Horses can pretty much write any style of song that moves them, which is an immense part of their pull for me personally. I am admittedly a bit late to the game in appreciation of what is an already accomplished career, but better late than never on board.
The first track I ever heard by Band of Horses was “The Funeral” off of their first album Everything All The Time. I was immediately struck by the unique sound and haunting feeling of the song. It felt so powerful to me. To this day, when I hear that sullen guitar riff with those vocals soaring over the top of it, it still turns me into an emotional mush.
Why Are You OK
Why Are You OK is the brand new release from Band Of Horses. It is their fifth studio album, which came out on June 10, 2016. It is indeed some of their finest work to date. In this current day of music, when it feels that artists often just piece individual tracks together to compile an album, Why Are You OK harkens back to the times when the entirety of an album would be written by a band with intent and purpose. The songs on Why Are You OK are diverse and wide-ranging in emotion, but all pull together to create a seamless sonic ride.
Here is a track by track rundown of Why Are You OK including videos for the singles released to date:
1. “Dull Times / The Moon” - The opening two-part track is a proper representation of the entire sound and vibe that encompasses Band of Horses as a whole. The “Dull Times” portion initiates the album and eases into your headspace with an atmospheric subtleness. With a peaceful feel and room to breathe, it gets you settled in for the ride. Once settled, “The Moon” portion of the song ramps up with energy through a rustic guitar riff and percussive groove. This track sets the stage brilliantly for the remainder of the album.
2. “Solemn Oath” - The playful vocal melody over the bouncy guitar riff hits you with all sorts of feelings within seconds of starting. A true standout on the album.
3. “Hag” - After an initial orchestral sounding intro, the band fades back to allow Ben Bridwell’s vocals to come to the forefront. The weighty subject matter calls for Bridwell’s infectious vocal delivery to be out in front and he strikes the tone the subject matter calls for. “But are we really in love? Completely in love?”. Painful questioning that weighs throughout the song.
4. “Casual Party” - This track jumps off with an immediate pace and slight urgency, which is in stark contrast to its’ predecessor on the album. The chorus is hook laden and Bridwell’s vocals punch up the driving nature of the track. Straightforward rock in all its' glory.
5. “In A Drawer” - “Sittin on a bearskin rug, listening to Grandpa talk….”. The opening line of this track, like so many other songs by Band Of Horses, paints such a stark and vivid image in your mind. Their lyrics are never just words to complement a riff. The song soars when the chorus and vocal harmonizing takeover. This track features a guest spot from Dinosaur Jr’s J. Mascis. Be forewarned, this chorus will not exit your head.
6. “Hold On Gimme A Sec” - A brief and intriguing musical interlude.
7. “Lying Under Oak” - The tale woven lyrically here by Bridwell keeps you rolling through the journey right alongside the subjects of the song. There is an understated feel to the track that allows you to just flow right along with it.
8. “Throw My Mess” - The slide guitar type riff that is front and center of this track might just be the riff of the album. It almost demands you start clapping your hands and stomping your feet. A rousing, yet restrained anthem that pays homage to blowing off steam and letting go. Who can not get behind that?
9. “Whatever, Wherever” - A throwback track reminiscent of the 1950’s - early 60’s style rock like the late great Roy Orbison would record. A rock n roll love song with a timeless feel that fits just right in 2016.
10. “Country Teen” - There may be a theme building here of opening lines setting the stage and tone for tracks. “Night is wasted. Sorry you passed out on the lawn” certainly fits the mold here as well. The track is laid back with a hearty country sound. The vocals delivered on this one by Tyler Ramsey, complement the sound and feel of the tune perfectly.
11. “Barrel House” - A subtle guitar riff at the onset of the track, with an almost haunting feel, punctuates the vivid storytelling by Bridwell. With a slightly pained chorus and pulled back pace, it is an emotional, yet warm song.
12. “Even Still” - The closing track. The band sends you out with Bridwell at front and center, initially with just some piano and faint orchestration underscoring some of his finest and most stark lyrical picture painting on the album. “It don’t matter what you done, I just want my life back for a while”. The band pulls you by the guts right into this troubled relationship, but you fully appreciate the dark beauty of it all.
Prolific Leaders In Rock N Roll
The styles and sounds shift with a welcomed variety throughout Why Are You OK, much like their entire catalog, but the one constant is the heart and soul at the core of the songwriting. I love all kinds of music, even mindless pop, but songs crafted with the substance that explores raw human emotion clearly connect on a different plane for me. Why Are You OK flows brilliantly from track to track and the lyrical tales being woven throughout are captivating. Band Of Horses continues to distinguish themselves with a prolific output of songs that matter. Why Are You OK further cement their rightful place as a prominent leader in the rock n roll landscape. The band is out on tour right now, this Fall of 2016, in support of their new album.
Spin these tunes, check out their tour dates, and hopefully you can catch a show. While you are at it, please leave a comment with your favorite track off of Why Are You OK.