Band of Horses "Why Are You Okay?"

Ben Bridwell may have been looking for a new direction for his band, a shift he began with Band of Horses’ 2012 release Mirage Rock. That album was a tentative move away from alt-country-leaning rock towards something more psychedelic and harder edged. Why Are You Okay? is a deeper dive into that experimentation, urged on by producer Jason Lytle. He’s the man behind the currently inactive indie band Grandaddy. If you’re missing that band this album might help fill the void.

Lytle’s influence on Bridwell’s songs is apparent and immediate. Why Are You Okay? opens with the dreamy “Dull Times/The Moon” which clocks in at seven minutes. Its gauzy production, looped vocals, and interspersed spoken word suggest the songwriter is stretching his musical muscles. The chorus of voices on “In a Drawer” are strung over an under belly of electronic syncopation and synthesizers. Still there are aspects of the album that are clearly Bridwell. His

lyrics are more complex and introspective than Lytle’s Grandaddy songs, and deal mostly with interpersonal insecurities and fatherhood. Another distinction is Bridwell’s vocals which fall somewhere between high-lonesome and indie-folk-balladeer. His voice is the defining sound of Band of Horses, and no matter how many filters it drifts through it maintains its mournful essence.

As the band gets deeper into the album Lytle’s production eases up, allowing a more traditional BOH sound to emerge. “Casual Party” and “Solemn Oath” feature great pop hooks. “Country Teen” is a sweet ballad, courtesy of guitarist Tyler Ramsey, with a chiming guitar, ala, Byrds. “Barrelhouse” and “Even Still” wrap the album in pensive country-shoegaze fashion. If you’re in the mood for lush, moody anthems, Why Are You Okay? provides plenty of material.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix)

 

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