The line between rock and folk music has always been a blurry one. Classic rock bands like Led Zeppelin trafficked in folksy mysticism and acoustics, and contemporary folk bands like Fleet Foxes often sneak electric guitars and heavy drums into their music. The last album by Band of Horses, Mirage Rock tried to meld their earnest folk origins with country rock, but it sounded cheesy and overcooked more often than not. Why Are You OK marks a move into a more indie-rock territory, and whilst the album is hardly revelatory, it’s their strongest in some time.
Opening track Dull Times/The Moon actually opens with a faint synthesiser, an unexpected tack for the band, and proceeds through 5 minutes of tense blues, before exploding into a joyous climax in its final minutes. It feels well-paced and thoughtful, nostalgic without being saccharine. Lead single Casual Party is a fast-paced, rollicking track, and details the awkward smalltalk of a party – “talking television at a casual party”. The sardonic subject matter is welcome, given the band’s propensity for navel-gazing.
That’s not to say the entire album is as fun as that track. In A Drawer may be built around an enjoyably mellow synth line, but the lyrics about youth and romance feel overtly quirky – “but darling, you know it shouldn’t be like that / can I go with you to the laundromat” – and distract from the otherwise catchy melodies of the chorus. The second half of the album also feels like something of a slog, as though the album could stand to lose a few songs. The alt-country stylings of Throw My Mess, and bland balladry of Whatever, Wherever are fairly forgettable, and drag the album out longer than it needs to be. Nonetheless, Why Are You OK contains some of Band of Horses best work, and their hooks are always catchy, in spite of their songs’ flaws.