Things Are Great with Band of Horses
A return to greatness for Ben Bridwell & co.
In one’s life, there are those rare albums that come along at just the right time.
Although it has been nearly six years since their last release, Band of Horses’ sixth studio album, Things Are Great, is one such album that recently arrived, precisely when we needed it.
Remarkably, the songs presented here were written before the pandemic, though you’d swear that wasn’t the case, as this sounds like an album purposely made for the unbalanced times we’re living through today.
From singing about how we “can’t do all the things that we used to do, and it sucks” to “sitting in my usual chair, feeling the walls around me close in, I’m in a state of disrepair, and trying to make it till the morning,” singer/songwriter Ben Bridwell expertly harnesses one sentiment after another to impeccably describe the unprecedented feelings so many of us have grappled with, however unwillingly, for the past two-plus years.
Some key players in Band of Horses’ lineup have changed in the years since their last album, Why Are You OK?, but the unvarying variable throughout the band’s history is Bridwell, who is easily one of the nicest guys ever, not just in the world of music, but in the world at large. Watch any interview he’s given, and it’s immediately apparent that here’s a guy who comes from a genuinely humble and wholly sincere place when he speaks, when he writes, and when he sings.
Bridwell has always possessed an uncanny ability to write lyrically heavy songs yet have them come across musically as sanguine, elevated by an energetic and graceful buoyancy. In other words, you may be listening to what is a sad song, but you wouldn’t know it without paying attention to the lyrics. Upon a cursory listen, this album — as with most of their catalog — contains melodically beautiful and infectiously catchy songs that don’t immediately reveal the weightiness of the serious themes at play — themes of heartbreak, loss, and loneliness.
The album’s title alone, Things Are Great, hits as tongue-in-cheek as was likely intended, much like the well-worn internet meme of the small dog seated at a table, sipping tea in hell, surrounded by flames, sarcastically proclaiming, “This is fine.”
And that’s one of the most endearing things about Band of Horses — you can find yourself smack dab in the middle of your own private hell as we all often do, but you can consistently count on comfort and reassurance coming through the good vibrations their music produces. This is a hallmark of their sound and one that has, thankfully, endured for nearly sixteen years now.
You know a Band of Horses song when you hear one, if for no other reason than Bridwell’s dulcet voice. Things Are Great capitalizes on the band’s signature sound — lush harmonies, crashing drums, crunching guitars, swelling choruses — all in the best way possible.
There’s still plenty of innovation here, and unsurprisingly, the production quality is exceptional. Still, these ten tracks feel completely on-brand in a modern-yet-nostalgic way that’s both intimate and comforting. For those who are well-versed in their earlier work, any of these songs could have been at home on Cease To Begin or Infinite Arms, which is to say that this is definitely as exceptional an album as those two, and up until now, those were considered by many to be their best works.
It was a long wait for Things Are Great to find its way to us, but the wait was well worth it, and now that the album is here, it does go a long way towards making things greater, or at the very least much better, than they were before.
God knows we’re all in need of that.
Band of Horses begin an extensive U.S. tour on April 29, running through late October — with some dates supporting The Black Keys — after which they close out the fall with several European dates.