Ben Howard’s debut album offered up some decent pop songs that were played mostly on acoustic guitar, it was seen as a slightly patchy LP but he stood out among the swamp of nu-folk acts emerging at the time. It captured the hearts of many though and it bagged him a Brit award and mercury nomination. After touring it endlessly he (and many others) has grown somewhat tired of this style now, he’s decided to come back with a slightly more atmospheric and more electric than before.
Sporting his signature voice that doesn’t sound too far off of Damien Rice, Howard makes songs a lot less catchy than his debut. With echoing electric guitars drenched in reverb creating an almost ambient atmosphere, there is a lot less in your face acoustic guitar wizardry here (though the wizardry is CERTAINLY still there). It pays off though-these songs feel much more ambitious for it. The song ‘Time Is Dancing’ is the best example of this with taking a break halfway through the song to show off his new mastering of making simple guitar noises sound gorgeous. Howard uses drums that feel beefy and haunting, they linger in the background of these songs and feel like they’re not there to keep rhythm but to create space.
These songs take a lot more time to unfold themselves than his debut LP, and is a record that demands repeat listens. He is still the same sensitive songwriter from before but a lot more solemn and serious this time around. At some points in this record kind of feels like it’s trying to be overtly serious like the song ‘Evergreen’, but he picks it up again in the last quarter of the album with the song ‘End Of The Affair’. A song nearing the 8 minute mark and is the most ambitious on here, with the instrumentation being the most diverse from the whole album, and has a brilliant crescendo. Howard has given us a left hook with this album, showing that he wants to challenge himself as an artists no matter the consequences on his success.