Ben Bridwell and Band of Horses came out of the gate running. The Seattle-based indie rock band got college-age and the thirtysomething demographic swooning with their first two albums, Everything All the Time and Cease To Begin. With Bridwell’s engaging lyrics and vulnerable vocal delivery, along with catchy melodies, melancholy jangle, and shimmering guitars Band of Horses were at the top of the heap of mid-2000s indie music. If you never sat alone in a dark living room listening to “No One’s Gonna Love You” for the umpteenth time feeling sorry for yourself, then you haven’t really lived.
But once their third album hit, 2010s Infinite Arms, the sound began to wane a bit. It felt like a recycle of what came before, but without any of the once shimering melodies and heart-on-sleeve delivery. Several albums in and Ben Bridwell seems to have found that magic that made Band of Horses stand out amongst the indie rock crowd of the Bush-era. Things Are Great may be an ironic album title in 2022, but the ten songs on the band’s newest album give us some hope that we might get there.
It’s almost as if this was the album that should have followed up the great Cease To Begin. It’s like picking up a story where we left off. “Warning Signs” sounds like running into an old friend you haven’t seen in ages. Bridwell’s lilting vocals, those jangly guitars, and then the explosion of the full band coming in halfway thru gives us hope that maybe our old friend is still the good soul we remember. “Crutch” sounds like Band of Horses doing their best 80s college rock. A touch of Smiths and a touch of giddy Robert Smith. Instant foot tap and head nod here.
Elsewhere there’s low key tracks like “Tragedy of the Commons”, “In Need Of Repair’, and album closer “Coalinga”. And maybe one of the noisiest BoH songs yet in the raucous “Lights”.
Things Are Great may indeed be an ironic album title, but after listening to Band of Horses new album I’m apt to say we may well be on our way to good. Great? Stranger things have happened, I suppose.