Review Summary: A much needed breather.
We all have bands we've neglected or put on the back burner of memory until they spark before our eyes again in newfound light. I've had this predicament with probably too many band. Recently, I indulged in a band I haven't explored the discography of in years: Band of Horses. I didn't even hear about their new album dropping over the summer, which cultivates the guilt I have for not keeping up with them for so long. Since the critically received Mirage Rock, I admit I was a little wary of the new album's quality. Fortunately, Why Are You OK gives the band a much needed breather after an album most of us wished to forget.
Immediately after listening to the first few tracks, I was reminded how much Benjamin Bridwell sounds like Benjamin Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie, and yet he seems to parallel Gibbard’s tender vocals to their core on Why Are You OK more so than prior records. The first half of this album expounds upon mellow indie rock with catchy melodies reminiscent of Death Cab's We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes, or The Photo Album, while the second half seems to veer towards a southern rock tonality, rebirthing similarities to the band's indie folk roots. The dualities of the album seem to emanate from Bridwell writing almost the entirety of the first half a dozen the remainder being mostly collaborations with the rest of the band. Although this second portion ultimately became rather tedious and lackluster as compared to the loosened, upbeat offerings of the first half, it's a much needed transition to keep the album from growing stale, delivering variation of a polar degree.
Why Are You OK begins with a rather long opening track (seven minutes exactly), “Dull Times/The Moon,” much like how City and Colour's If I Should Go Before You starts with the nine minute long “Woman.” Perhaps in doing so jostles the listener into the atmosphere of what is to come later on, which works to Band of Horses’ favor, in this case. Not only was Why Are You OK released in the summer, but it emulates a strong summer vibe as well. The first half of the record illuminates this shimmering sound immaculately, with songs such as “Solemn Oath,” “Hag,” and “Casual Party” stringing together fun and catchy indie rock choruses. However, where the album loses me is in the aforementioned second half, in which the monotony of southern rock and country influences take the reins from the signature indie rock the band excels so well in. The songs feel uninspired and tuckered out; perhaps what the best choice to optimize Why Are You OK's sound might have been to mix up the track listing so we might evenly appreciate the album as a whole. In it's disjointed, separated state, we can still surmise all of the band's various influences, but I find myself tired after “Lying Under Oak,” wondering why the change of direction was so necessary.
In the grand scheme of things, Why Are You OK isn't necessarily a bad record by any means, but simply suffers from the tiresome consistency exploited on its second half. In spite of the album not really being anything groundbreaking for Band of Horses, it still exercises the enjoyable indie rock of previous releases without feeling strained. It might not be an altogether solid album, but Why Are You OK supplies not only the band, but the listener to a much needed sabbatical in a time where the band is probably coming to terms with the age of their career and what's left for them.