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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

September 20, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Life & Culture

Review: Singer-songwriter Ben Howard taps into darker sounds

Ben Howard

"I Forget Where We Were"

The slow sound of an electric guitar is followed by the subtle beats of drums as a violin enters at the very end of the song, which helps it gradually fade out. This moment opens Ben Howard’s sophomore album, “I Forget Where We Were,” and sets the eerie mood for the rest of the collection.

The album starts off with the track “Small Things.” The first line in the chorus of the song, “Has the world gone mad/ Or is it just me?” seems to develop the tone of the album. These lyrical contributions create a melancholy feel that Howard seems to be trying to achieve overall. Listeners could find this record strange when compared to Howard’s past work, since the artist has taken a new approach on how he produces these sounds.

Howard’s second album has a different mood than his first album, “Every Kingdom,” which had a more sentimental and motivational tone and featured a handful of love songs. With this newest album, Howard expresses his darker side, charged with grief and sorrow. While Howard sticks to his acoustic guitar in many songs, he has also taken to using more electronic instrumentation on this album, which helps aid his new, darker musicality.

His songs are quite long, varying from four to nearly eight minutes. There are many moments on this album where listeners will hear just instruments or Howard’s passionate and emotional voice. This is something that his audience could appreciate from the singer as they serve as a showcase for Howard’s musical talent.

One of the few hiccups on the album is the track “End of the Affair,” which opens up with a 50-second introduction where Howard struts his stuff on his acoustic guitar. Listeners will hear a vocal echoing effect that gives off a ghostly feel during the track. The song, being almost eight minutes in length, is something that his listeners may or may not have patience for despite its quality instrumentation. Howard takes a risk on the album with these longer songs, and even though he is demonstrating his instrumental skills, the length feels excessive and overdone.

Howard’s audience may find “I Forget Where We Are” eerie, which could be appealing to some, while off-putting to others. With this current release, Howard seems to have pursued a more somber album and as a result, hits mostly high notes.