This article originally appeared in DIY
It’s been four years since Band of Horses released their last LP ‘Mirage Rock.’ In that time the group have worked with Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle on a Christmas song, while frontman Ben Bridwell released a covers album with Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam. It’s not too difficult to hear how these collaborations have expanded the band’s sonic palette a little more on their long-awaited fifth album ‘Why Are You OK.’ Lytle even returns to produce the album, and his influence can certainly be heard on the swirling psych guitars and spoken word breakdowns of opener ‘Dull Times/ The Moon.’ Then the track morphs into the kind of rousing alt rock you’ve come to expect from Band of Horses and you realise that, even after a four year gestation period, they’re not entirely willing to stray from their comfort zone.
Not that returning to the formula is necessarily a bad thing. Lead single ‘Casual Party’ sees Bridwell lamenting over “awful conversation” and “the job, the babble on.” Its driving riffs and euphoric chorus make it more fun than any song about rubbish get-togethers has any right to be though, even becoming something of an ironic singalong. As might be expected from a track featuring Dinosaur Jr’s J Mascis, ‘In A Drawer’ is brilliantly lo-fi and even scuzzy in places. If only some of the other tracks here had the same charm. ‘Solemn Oath’ is a pretty unmemorable alt rock affair and although ‘Whatever, Wherever’ is a pleasant ditty, it’s also pretty ineffectual.
The band are much more engaging when they stray further into the realms of Americana. ‘Throw My Mess’ is a proper country stomper complete with slide guitar and gorgeous harmonies and on ‘Country Teen’ Bridwell starts sounding curiously like Father John Misty, which is always welcome. When they drift into this more roots-driven territory Band of Horses can be captivating, but these moments are few and far between. Frustratingly, there are times when this record feels a little bit like the band are trying too hard to make a rousing stadium rock song, making this latest outing just OK.