Artist Spotlight: Band of Horses – The General Specific As to Why Band of Horses is So Great

I first heard Band of Horses when watching, of all things, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. The movie, which is actually relatively charming by the way (and cowritten by one of the best modern YA writers, David Levithan), uses the song Our Swords. I instantly fell deeply in love with the band and with Ben Bridwell’s unique, clear voice. The music itself fits right into the indie rock/southern rock genre, with songs ranging from melancholy and mournful to twangy and rollicking.

A unique feature of the band for me is that there is one song on every album of theirs that makes me cry. Most of the time it isn’t just to do with the lyrics, even though I’m someone who tends to pay close attention to lyrics. It’s just that when they do heartbreaking, they do it well. So I’m going to share my favorites from each album, but also share which song makes me cry.

One important thing I’ll note here is that in my opinion Band of Horses has some of the most artfully arranged albums of any band out there, so every album is worth a complete listen, in order.

Everything All the Time was the band’s debut album in 2006, and the most popular song from it is ALSO the song that makes me cry. “The Funeral” is so mournful that even without knowing the lyrics it might make you want to cry. The lyrics just make it even sadder. The band has said in interviews that the song is about dreading big family events and feeling like a funeral would almost be better, but for some reason my interpretation was always about fearing for the life of a friend.

The other highlight on this album for me is the aforementioned “Our Swords”:

Cease to Begin is one of my favorite albums of all time. As in, it’s in the top ten for me. I can’t even begin to list which songs I think are the best because they’re all so good. So I’m going to pick two at random, then tell you which song makes me cry. I’m going to forgo highlighting “Is There a Ghost” and “No One’s Gonna Love You”, since they’re probably the most well-known Band of Horses songs, however I will mention that even though he’s a jackass, the Cee-Lo cover of “No One’s Gonna Love You” is worth checking out.

“Islands on the Coast” is a great example of a higher-energy Band of Horses song, and one that makes use of Bridwell’s voice.

And “The General Specific” is an example of them getting a little more Southern, which as a Southern girl at heart I appreciate:

But for the song that makes me cry? That’s going to be “Marry Song”, though I couldn’t explain to you why if you asked me.

Infinite Arms is one of their albums I listen to less, but is still really great. I think the reason I don’t listen to it as often is the fact that “Evening Kitchen” will make me sob like a little baby. A song that, to me, is about regret, resentment, and a wish that you could take it all back, it tears me apart. Otherwise I’ll admit that this is an album I need to listen to more.

I have to admit I wasn’t a huge fan of their next album, Mirage Rock, though the single “Knock Knock” is alright. I’m going to leave this to y’all to speak to the virtues or faults of the album.

However their newest album released just this year, Why Are You Ok is a true return to form for them in my mind. Which is odd, because it also has my least favorite song of theirs, “Country Teen”, on it. But ignoring that song, the rest of it is fantastic and flows together as a kind of narrative about growing up, family, and adjusting to truly being an adult.

“Casual Party”, the single from the album, is a fun little vignette, but I think for true rock songs on the album it is vastly overshadowed by the rollicking, twangy, and just plain fun “Throw My Mess”:

On the opposite side of the spectrum, “Lying Under Oak” is reminiscent of “The Funeral” to me, tinged with what sounds like a desire to bring someone back into the fold. It’s elegantly stated and wistful and gorgeous:

And finally, the one that makes me cry is “Even Still”, with it’s opening pleading leading into a haunting, beautiful ending to the album:

If you’ve liked any of this, I highly suggest you give an entire album a listen, starting with Cease to Begin and perhaps following with Why Are You Ok. Enjoy!