Photo: Andrew Stuart

Band of Horses – “Whatever, Wherever” (Singles Going Steady)

"Whatever, Wherever" is a stripped-down acoustic paean to the selflessness of love.

Pryor Stroud: Filled with dappled light, rustic-pop daydreaming, and winsome notebook-poetry like the best Band of Horses tracks, “Whatever, Wherever” is a stripped-down acoustic paean to the selflessness of love. Ben Bridwell’s voice, a cloying yet delicately measured breeze-substance, flits effortlessly and nonchalantly over the casual guitar strumming in the background. He seems to be staring off into space as he sings. A mirage of his lover slowly dissipates before him — she’s there long enough to spellbind his attention, but gone before he can get his fill. “Whatever you want / Wherever you are”, he sings in the chorus, declaring his total loyalty to this absent lover, but he might as well be singing the unimpeachable pop-adage from Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere”, another simple but melodically-potent composition: “I want to be with you everywhere”, the chorus resounds, and you can hear Christine McVie’s voice drawing from the exact same reservoir of breath and inexhaustible longing that “Whatever, Wherever” emerges from. [7/10]

Morgan Y. Evans: This lovely song isn’t reinventing the wheel or anything but the music and video capture a certain elusive yet familiar spirit of nostalgia in the present moment. It recalls the past with earthy heart, the current warmth of summer via the smile-filled video of people living, loving, cooking, jamming, swimming and enjoying the sun together and leaves you feeling a little hopeful for the future with a lingering reminder the world isn’t always a bad place. There is even a cute dog. All in all it has a real reverence for possibility, life and a sort of childish wonder for one another, on the best of days. [7/10]

Emmanuel Elone: “Whatever, Wherever” might be one of the most soothing songs that Band of Horses has ever done, and that’s saying something. The light instrumentation is soft and delicate, with some guitar fingerpicking, a sweet little melody, and relaxing percussion. The chorus is equally tame as Ben Bridwell croons “wherever you are” with the slightest of reverb on his voice to sooth things even more. At times, “Whatever, Wherever” can feel a bit corny and cheap as Band of Horses tries it hardest to pull at its listeners’ heartstrings, and the vocals can sound somewhat boyish amidst the instrumentation, but these faults don’t take away from the fact that this song is too sweet and pretty to dislike, no matter how sappy it can be. [7/10]

Chris Ingalls: Band of Horses’ latest is a bit of indie Americana with a hazy gauze all around it. It’s like you’re having a dream about My Morning Jacket. There’s also a ’70s AM radio vibe that recalls Neil Young in his more accessible moments. I like Band of Horses and I’m looking forward to hearing the rest of the album, but this song feels like too much of a placeholder. It’s pretty, but there’s not a lot to grab onto. [6/10]

John Bergstrom: Apparently no amount of heartwarming, authentic home video footage can arrest Band of Horses’ creative decline. Ben Bridwell’s gang were never cutting-edge, mind. But, man, they wrote some great songs and made a couple great albums. The “their old stuff was so much better” tack is an easy one to take, but these guys are a textbook example. “Whatever, Wherever” is laid-back, pretty, and pretty dull. It hearkens back to the Infinite Arms days, which, unfortunately, means it doesn’t hearken back far enough, or move them forward at all. [5/10]

Chad Miller: Sweet track with really pretty music. The intro is especially nice, and the bright vocals seem very sincere. My one complaint would be with the lyrics. They were a little too sentimental all around, and “I love you a lot” is probably something that should never be uttered in a song, but to Band of Horses’ credit, it worked better than it should have. [7/10]

SCORE: 6.50