Album of the Week: Band of Horses, 'Why Are You OK?'

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Band of Horses, 'Why Are You OK?'
Band of Horses, 'Why Are You OK?' (Interscope Records)

Why are you OK? It's a subtly provocative question and the title of the fifth studio album from Band of Horses. It presumes the person asking the question is not OK, and they want you to know why. Although Ben Bridwell omitted the question mark from the title, it's clear he sees reasons to not be OK.

After working with legendary English producer Glyn Johns on Mirage Rock, Bridwell turned to American indie-rock insider, Jason Lytle, to produce his first studio album in four years. The break was worth the wait, and the choice to work with Lytle — who is best known for his band, Grandaddy — paid off. Why Are You OK strikes the perfect balance between Bridwell's meandering lyrics and intricate guitar melodies.

Lytle, who is no stranger to writing understated hooks, perfectly captured the simplicity of Band of Horses' songwriting and resisted the urge to bury Bridwell's iconic voice underneath layers of guitars; he even has songwriting credits on the mid-album interlude "Hold On Gimme A Second."

But the success of the album doesn't solely rest on Lytle. Ben Bridwell's lyricism is greater than on previous albums. The narratives on songs like "Casual Party" and "Solemn Oath" reveals his strengths as a writer. Why Are You OK leaves you wanting to know about the thoughts and stories inside Bridwell's head. He lets you into his world more than ever before with songs about growing into raising a family and about moving into a new stage of the band's career.

There is also a sense of surprise on "Why Are You OK," hinting that Bridwell has more in store for the future. The opening track, "Dull Times / The Moon" is a seven-minute jam that leads you into an epic verse toward the end of the song. It serves as a gateway into the rest of the album. There is a curious guest vocal appearance by J Mascis on "In A Drawer," and Tyler Ramsey takes songwriting credit on "Country Teen."

Why Are You OK sounds like the soundtrack to the end of a party or the backdrop for a road trip. This isn't an indie-rock album; it's piece of the new Americana without the banjos and harmonicas. It's as complete as any previous album from Band of Horses, and it leaves you wanting more.

Audience ratings for this album


Among The Current's listeners who submitted a rating for this album, 60 percent gave the album 5 out of 5 stars. Poll closed at 12 p.m. on Friday, June 24.

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