Band of Horses-Everything All the Time (2006, Sup Pop)
Band of Horses first entered my consciousness when I watched the trailer for 127 Hours, the 2010 movie in which James Franco cuts off his own arm and some other stuff happens. “The Funeral” features heavily in the clip, and remains Band of Horse’s most well-known song. Around the same time, one of my good friends (who I relied on for music during high school) introduced me to “The Great Salt Lake,” which remains one of my favorite songs to this day; I’ll be raving about it plenty in this write-up. I bought the actual album years later, and it went on to soundtrack dozens of drives between the Philadelphia suburbs and State College, PA. These took place during the months after I graduated from college in June 2017, and it was a difficult time in terms of existential dread and the ever-enjoyable battle with depression/anxiety/etc. More so than any other album during those months, Everything All The Time managed to calm my nerves and make me feel like things might turn out ok. Remains one of my favorites to this day.
Band of Horses was always fated to be one of those poor, unfortunate musical groups that peaked with its first album. While this may be bad news to guitarist/vocalist Ben Bridwell, the only consistent Horse in the Band throughout the years, it is perfectly ok news to anyone who owns or has the opportunity to listen to 2006’s Everything All The Time. There is never one reason that a band goes downhill after its first album, although in this case it may have to do with the fact that every member except for Bridwell left soon after the recording of the album. Whatever happened afterward, the fact remains that this album is great from start to finish, clocking in at only 36 minutes over 10 tracks; there is no fat left to be trimmed.
People seem to assume that Band of Horses is an “alt-country” group because Bridwell is from South Carolina and sometimes dresses like a cowboy. Apart from pedal steel flourishes on several tracks, a banjo lick on one, and a glorious “Yeehaw!” at the beginning of the barn-burning “Weed Party,” Everything All The Time bears little resemblance to a country music album. If anything, its languid tempos, wistful high-register vocals, and arpeggiated guitar chords constitute a rootsy take on the dream pop sound. The album refuses to be categorized, though, simply because it’s so straightforward. Band of Horses do not reinvent the wheel here; rather, they focus on producing catchy, emotional, and memorable music.
Despite variation between songs, Everything All The Time feels like a cohesive whole, mainly due to Bridwell’s delivery. His annunciation (or lack thereof), southern accent, and feathery high pitch render many of the album’s lyrics incomprehensible. It doesn’t matter; Bridwell’s meandering, freewheeling vocal lines make you feel rather than think. His performance feels spontaneous; sentences trail off before thoughts are completed or spill over into multiple measures; “who-oa’s” are ever present. His distinctive voice ties the album together, much like Jeff Bridges’ rug does the room in The Big Lebowski. Some decipherable lines shine through and stand out: e.g. “Sit out tonight in a strange place/If we have no friends here, I had few to begin with,” and “If I am lost, it’s only for a little while,” the second of which really resonated with me during the aforementioned Dark Time™.
Band of Horses specializes in emotive, swelling anthems played at a leisurely tempo, “The Funeral” being the best example with its spiderweb guitar line during the verse and towering chorus that feels as if it’s been fired at you from a cannon. Other examples include dramatic album opener “The First Song” (wonder how they named that one), which features a shimmering guitar riff and vocals from the top of Bridwell’s register, and the sort-of-two-parter duo of “I Go To The Barn Because I Like The” and “Monsters,” which climax with crescendos both melancholy and uplifting, respectively. Several songs feature ornate acoustic riffs, one of which (closer “St. Augustine”) also includes some beautiful harmonies between Bridwell and guitarist Matt Brooke. The real outlier is “Our Swords,” a minimalist, bass-driven number that lacks guitars but includes the album’s most memorable drum track courtesy of sometimes-contributor Sera Cahoone.
As good as the songs on Everything All The Time are, they all pale in comparison to “The Great Salt Lake.” This is one of those songs that holds so much personal resonance that it is almost pointless to describe it. I gave this album several listens while sitting in my windowless 5th floor office today, and I got chills within seconds every time “Great Salt Lake”’s indelible guitar riff kicked in. The track has an expansive vibe, like it could soundtrack a road trip through the Mojave Desert, both triumphant and melancholy. It reminds me of lying in a freezing tent in my parents’ backyard in high school and trying to psych myself up to (technically) sneak out for a late night walk around the neighborhood; I didn’t end up going (we got a badass here!) Do yourself a favor and blast this song while doing 85 on some bumblefuck highway late at night. As a matter of fact, blast the whole album, as I’ve been doing for over a year now and will continue to do for as long as I can.