REVIEW: Band of Heathens “Stranger” Addresses Today’s Existential Dread


Stranger, the latest effort from Band of Heathens, builds upon the success of 2017’s Duende while simultaneously address today’s existential dread. Produced by Tucker Martine and referencing both Albert Camus and Robert Heinlein while also a nod to their fan base, Stranger find Band of Heathens working their push-pull rock to impressive effect.
The record opens with the roll-rocking barroom romp “Vietnorm”; with its toy piano keyboard and its anthem, “head in the clouds, while the sky is falling down”, the track sets the stage for the sentiment to follow. “Dare” follows with soaring guitars and the plea, “I beg you to tell me something good.”

“Black Cat” takes a turn toward a dark alley and “the story of the stowaway child went to New York to start again” and the admonition, “always know who your people are, don’t forget from where you come.” With a slow groove closer to New Orleans than New York and more moody lounge than rowdy bar, “Black Cat” soothes with soundtrack strings, a swagger, and extended outro that wouldn’t be out of place on the jam circuit yet pushes and pulls with purpose.

“How do you sleep?” find the band embracing an intimacy usually reserved for the natural embrace of Fleet Foxes while “Call Me Gilded” shifts to acoustic reflections recalling sounds of past revivalism, Simon & Garfunkel with a dose of James Taylor; “the fall of man will be written in a wordless headline screamed over cloudy sunny skies, if silence is golden call me gilded.”

“South by Somewhere” and “Asheville Nashville Austin” embrace the magic of the open road in all its glory and absurdity via a mellow rocker and a building good-time anthem respectively. “Today is Our Last Tomorrow” directly confronts today’s news, “the world is coming down, can’t you hear the sound, today is our last tomorrow,” with a fun near-circus feel – Band of Heathens party as the world burns and invite you to join in with the sing-along chorus over spiraling guitar lines.

Band of Heathens’ Stranger offers salve for these trying times. Pick up your copy, sit with these songs, and slip off with the Heathens to a place beyond today’s troubles.

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