Album Review: Band Of Horses – 'Things Are Great'

4 March 2022 | 2:18 pm | Tobias Handke

"Easily their most accessible and enjoyable album since breaking through in 2010."

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It’s been a long time between drinks for southern indie rockers Band Of Horses. After releasing their fifth album Why Are You Ok to middling reviews in 2016, the band has undergone some massive change over the past six years.

First, there was the sudden departures of guitarist Tyler Ramsey and bassist Bill Reynolds within days of each other in 2017. Then frontman Ben Birdwell scrapped an entire album's worth of material he deemed “wasn’t good enough” as discussed in an interview with Spin.

Going through a divorce and hitting rock bottom, Birdwell went back to basics and decided to produce the album himself alongside a group of close-knit friends (including Grandaddy’s Jason Lyye and Flaming Lips’ producer Dave Fridmann). The end product from the South Carolina-based outfit is Things Are Great, easily their most accessible and enjoyable album since breaking through in 2010.

Band Of Horses serve up ten solid tracks of soaring choruses, affable guitar riffs, personal stories and lead guitarist and vocalist Birdwell’s understated vocals. There’s a sense of nostalgia filtered throughout the album, which might be attributed to Birdwell’s open and honest songwriting.

First single Crutch is a driving and vibrant guitar number addressing his breakup while the album’s opening track Warning Signs is inspired by a true event where Birdwell lost his voice onstage while performing in Sydney and was brought to tears. It’s a hazy guitar number with heartfelt lyrics that sets the scene for what is to come.

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Ice Night We’re Having is another relationship rocker written for big stages with an Arcade Fire vibe that finds Birdwell singing about “picking up the pieces of us.” Album closer Coalinga is a harmony filled occasion detailing a road trip the band took through the Central California coast. Lights is based on a wild true story about a break-in at Birdwell’s apartment and references detectives and bright lights. It is about “getting over the worst shit ever” and is an inspiring listen with a rousing hook.

These are the songs that really stick with you and showcase Birdwell’s vulnerability as a writer and willingness to embrace his darkest moments. Combined with his authentic voice and the band’s breezy, uplifting instrumentation, Things Are Great is Band Of Horses' most honest record yet and marks the resurgence of one of America’s most consistent rock acts of the past 15 years.