There’s something warmly nostalgic about the type of music Band Of Horses have made over the past 12 years. Cease to Begin reached me when I was moving out of home for the first time, while Infinite Arms was a staple of my study playlist during my second year of uni. Listening back through certain cuts from those albums in particular before I tackled their 2016 release Why Are You OK, I was hit with the realisation that it had been ages since I’d listened to Band of Horses.
Time to get back into the saddle.
Where 2012’s Mirage Rock received positive reviews, it was a record that definitely had people sat on both sides of the fence. It’s arguable that on Why Are You Ok, Band of Horses have released some of their strongest material yet and highlights the strong points of this band’s output that haven’t died off any in their time away.
Ben Bridwell can still write a hell of a song and he’s still most definitely a charming vocalist. In terms of crafting indie guitar hooks and delivering them with a richness that makes the music feel older than it is, Band of Horses still have it. But things have also definitely changed, for Bridwell in particular.
Now a father or four, songwriting for Why Are You OK would take place in between school pick up and drop offs, being a doting dad during dress up sessions with his daughters. You get the impression that Bridwell is writing from a personal space on this album, but there’s still the level of rawness and heart-on-sleeve writing fans will have loved about his style on previous albums.
“Dull Times/The Moon” acts as an epic album opener and is exemplary of Bridwell’s capability of drawing a listener in with his lyricism. It’s a vulnerable presentation but then when that guitar kicks five or so minutes in, the song takes a whole new turn and becomes this fleshed out, fuller sounding beast that is easily one of my favourite moments on Why Are You OK. Jason Lytle‘s production on the record is a great addition to this current Band of Horses formula and for fans of Grandaddy, his presence will be instantly felt.
Melodically strong and coming packing with enough vibrancy to balance out the more traditional country-folk, Why Are You Ok has moments of gold that shows the band at a return to form. “Whatever, Wherever”, “Lying Under Oak” and “Casual Party” are relentless in their approach to make the listener feel. But then, for any Band of Horses fan, it’s an element of their music we’re very familiar with.
For those of us who have been following along with the band since the early albums, there are hallmarks within their 2016 effort that will take you back to those days but make no mistake, this a band removed from that time. Still a band of effortlessly endearing and captivating musicians, they’ve produced a record that – while still anchored by gorgeous texture and rich sound – is very much in the now. Proof that they’ve still got it, but also that they’re headed in a great direction with new music.
Review Score: 7.9 out of 10.
Why Are You OK is out now.