The first time I saw Ben Howard, I was at the beach: waves in the background, surrounded by drunken surfers with the introduction to ‘The Wolves’ blaring out of the towering speakers… Ben Howard’s music was the soundtrack to my summer. Four years later we are introduced to a new side, a hidden side, a dark side to Ben Howard… Now, the soundtrack to my winter.
With a few exceptions, ‘Every Kingdom’ was mainly acoustic based guitars. Howard was accompanied by India Bourne (on the cello, bass and supporting vocals) and (Chris Bond playing guitars, base, drums and also supporting vocals). The album had a sort of rawness to it. He brought to it, his lyrical genius, his majestic finger picking skills and poignant voice. The album held a sense of warmth, with tracks such as ‘Old Pine’ and ‘Only Love’ – The tracks that seemed to define Ben in the earlier years of his career.
Moving onto 2014: transcending from the uplifting Ben Howard with the sense of ecstasy and warmth, to a Ben Howard filled with reminiscence, darkness and delicate melodies. In the album, ‘I Forget Where We Were’ we’re welcomed with the sound of echoing riffs sweetly accompanied by delay peddles. We were originally introduced to this new murky sound with the release of ‘The Burgh Island’ EP in late 2012, which gave Ben Howard fans a taste of the new album: smart move.
‘I Forget Where We Were’ holds moments of depression and hopelessness. The title itself holds a story of its own, perhaps of lost love that once meant something, only to fade away eventually into a hazy mist of memories. We are welcomed to step into the home of Ben’s lyrical thoughts with the first track, ‘Small Things’. The consistent theme of hopelessness runs through this opening track, assisted with the painful vocals from Ben, haunted by his lyrics: ‘Has the world gone mad? Or is it me?’
The tracks on the new album vary slightly. Although, they all hold a sense of magic in them, a moment in the song that you hold onto with both hands, that you can’t seem to stop replaying over and over. ‘Conrad’ is my best example of this. It opens with this intricate riff that brings such an enchanting tone and works excellently with the lyrics. ‘Time Is Dancing’ is also a personal favourite of mine. Ben’s vocals in this track bring so much pain and empathy that intertwine perfectly with the haunting harmonies and beautiful lyrics. The pause at 4:57 is perfection. Don’t skip straight to that moment now you’ve just read that. You have to wait for it. You have to appreciate the anticipation of the drop and the climax it brings.
The album fades to a finish with ‘All Is Now Harmed’. This track feels like the epic finish that this album deserves. Ultimately, ‘I Forget Where We Were’ hasn’t received as much recognition as ‘Every Kingdom’. Perhaps this is because of the lack of catchy chorus’ that we can all chant alongside him, such as ‘Only Love’, but this album has depth and meaning…something that some artists seem to be lacking.