Ben Howard – I Forgot Where We Were Review

BY EMMA BARNETT

Ben Howard, where have you been hiding?

After the amazing reception of his last album Every Kingdom in 2011, it was surprising how long Ben Howard went underground for. Had it really been three years since I played a track with Ben’s iconic mumbling on for my first listen?

Every Kingdom reaped some amazing stats, including a peak position of number 4, and stayed in the Album charts for over 100 weeks in total.

Since being in the crowd of Ben Howard’s set at Gentlemen of the Road: Summer Stampede in 2012, I have been counting down the days until the release of his next album. Two years later, here it is and I have not been disappointed.

The first time I heard his new album set list was at the iTunes Festival in September 2014, and it left the crowd speechless. When he silently slipped off the stage after the performance, people walked out quietly, occasionally murmuring to their friends, with a general sense of awe.

The first track to be released was the Album titled song End of the Affair, giving the audience a taster of what was to come. This melody from the London-based singer songwriter lasts over seven minutes long, and encapsulates why we have been craving this album.

The isolated acoustic guitar and the sorrowful nature of the theme create Howard as a ghost-like figure, and the lyrics ‘This is Hell’ and ‘What the Hell?’ which close the song don’t leave you feeling exactly uplifted.

However, Howard pushes his sound further and past what could easily have fallen into simplicity. The basic concept of only one guitar and one voice are made complex by a reverb that helps Howard’s music to advance. He looks back on the past relationship described within his lyrics and leaves us breathless with his echo and exaggeration, pushing boundaries of common folk genre techniques and conventions.

Conrad, the second to last track on the album is my current favourite. It’s classic sound from Howard transcends the time between this and the last album. A singular yet intricately played electric guitar creates a base to paint his warm vocals.

Conrad could be referring to Joseph Conrad, who is considered by some as one of the greatest British novelists. ‘You were the boat that bridged in the tale of Conrad we will never be the change to the weather and the sea and you knew that’ refers to Joseph Conrad’s time as a sailor merchant. The fabled sounding lyrics leave you with a nostalgic feeling that can’t be shaken and you’ll be itching until you can play the song again.

If you were counting down the days to the album release like me, you better brace yourselves to have it on repeat.

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