In a December 2021 episode of Tim Heidecker’s Office Hours, Weyes Blood called in and explained a rising term among generational descriptors: Doomer. It’s a term that is impossible to unhear, its time to rise up in our vocabulary more apt than ever. Cynicism feels harder than ever to push away. And on Band of Horses’ sixth album, Things Are Great, the group leans into this level of despair harder than ever. Sure, there are the occasional moments of lightness and carefree folk that they’ve crafted, but the crux of the album lies in a reflection of collective frustration and sadness.
Things Are Great is the band’s first album in five years. It presents a new configuration, too—the lineup now consists of bassist Matt Gentling, guitarist Ian MacDougall, keyboard/guitarist Ryan Monroe, Creighton Barrett, and frontman Ben Bridwell. While the album’s material was mostly written before the pandemic shut the world down, its themes became even more necessary to create art around. Opening track “Warning Signs” is inspired by a personal experience in Bridwell’s time on tour with Band of Horses when, in 2016, he lost his voice onstage at the Sydney Opera House. While it pulls from his own medical experience, it’s an opportunity for those affected by recent medical trauma (and a global pandemic) to process the changes. Equipped with a raw, heavier rock tone, the track is a strong start to the record.
Throughout the album, Band of Horses lean into a heartier branch of folk rock, especially on “Crutch.” It feels like a signal of change, through guitars with more depth and a crunchier drum track. Poking fun at the closeness of the words “crutch” and “crush,” it’s a charming way to reflect on past loves. “Aftermath” is more like a familiar Band of Horses ballad, honing in on Bridwell’s bold, yet melancholic vocals. It wades in a shallow, slower sound, until more than halfway through the track when it explodes into harmonies and a thrush of drums and layered guitars.
Album closer “Coalinga” pays homage to the band’s folk roots, featuring plucking fiddles in its intro and a sweet, melancholic chorus effect to accompany the track’s chorus. In these moments, the band brings to mind an elevated sound of their beginnings. Since they began with Everything All the Time, the group has evolved and persevered to come out with a polished, beautiful sound that is all their own. Things Are Great sounds like their homecoming after many years away from a release. It’s bittersweet, a nostalgic nod to where they’ve been, a rare throwback on an album that shows how brightly the band still shines.
Extremely proud of her documentation of every Wegman’s item in The Office. Once got last place in a corn shucking competition.