After such a successful debut record, by no means has Ben Howard stopped creating
excellence. An extremely gifted and talented individual like Ben doesn’t fade away into the shadows which are so boldly cast on his album artwork. Instead, he puts together this divine record combining of folk and contemporary rock. Unlike ‘Every Kingdom’ we have lots more synths and electric guitar layered with his sublime acoustic guitar skills. A similarity to his debut however, is the album length. Ten tracks over fifty-four minutes is a treat, with no song under the four minute mark you get these endless masterpieces that conjure up something new every minute or have a unmissable sing-along. Lead single ‘End of the Affair’ is a prime example. For a start; a typical ‘single’ track length is around 3-4 minutes but Ben’s choice of this track to put out first is to show how he has moulded into these epic several minute songs that show his creativity. ‘End of the Affair’ has the qualities of the ‘Every Kingdom’ songs but
it just holds this big and bold prowess that hit you harder than anything he has done before. His songs are much darker and personal, similar to those on ‘The Burgh Island – EP’. If you’re a fan of Ben then you’ll notice this from the beginning on opener ‘Small Things’ which unfolds into this gloomy ballad of going mad with some ghostly guitar notes to emphasise a sombre style.
His experimentation is heard almost all the way through ‘I Forget Where We Were’
apart from the middle of the album where “In Dreams” and “She Treats Me Well” sit. A couple of tracks that just don’t really get going and could probably be done without. However, the second half is where the album really shines and puts Ben in a class of his own. ‘Time Is Dancing’ is an outstanding number which is just shy of seven minutes, not exactly radio-friendly but who cares. This is a track you need to listen to through your record players speaker or your earphones on a cross country train to Manchester Piccadilly. It flows wtih anndless river of melodic guitars and orchestral instruments that tone perfectly with Howard’s humming croon vocals.
’Conrad’ is undoubtedly one of the best songs Howard has ever written. His lyrics are
playful and often cryptic paired with the soulful guitar rhythm and beached drum beats.
‘Evergreen’ delves into the real depths of ‘I Forget Where We Were’’s inconsolable mood as Ben sings ‘take me back to the catacombs’ to a simple chord structure that you can only feel empathy for. The album bows out with ‘All Is Now Harmed’, the best track on the album. At only five minutes and third shortest on the record, it feels like the longest journey. Beginning with a calm almost spoken word entry, it erupts into a volcanic folk cannonball that cues head bopping and embarrassing air guitar movements. It’s to those who think you have to make the same record over and over again to be popular and successful, well it’s artists like Ben Howard who are imaginative and original that are proving those people wrong.