At last! Ben Howard and his band of loyal accompanists are back with a bold new album that demands to be listened to.
Making no apologies
Sorry acoustic Ben fans- you’ll find little of that here. I Forget Where We Were makes no apologies for the new sound and neither it should. This is an edgy, sombre record, yet it still retains an endearing raw quality that embodies Ben Howard’s unique sound. While it doesn’t always make for easy listening, I promise you will not regret indulging in this record.
The album opener, Small Things, is a dark, twangy tune reminiscent of every bad thing you’ve ever done that just felt so good. The haunting quality of the electric guitar featured in this track is to be a steadfast feature of the album. Like much of the record, Small Things teases the listener before exploding with a crashing crescendo of musical madness.
Rivers in Your Mouth (no, I don’t know what it means either) is a punchy little number and relatively upbeat for this record. While it’s certainly no club tune, you will find yourself toe-tapping along. There is a definite synergy flowing through this album as familiar licks reappear throughout. Good old Ben is definitely a fan of harmonics.
The title track has been buzzing around cyberspace for a few weeks now and it has subsequently acquired the comforting familiarity of a favourite blanket (and Ben can tuck me in any time). As with most of his music, the lyrics are cryptic but beautifully constructed, although I can’t help but cringe at the line: “hello love/ the thistle and the burrow”. Really? The Burrow?!
I forget where we were
There is a flash of the older Ben Howard sound (think Black Flies) in the delicious In Dreams, where an intricate rolling acoustic guitar at its heart. This is the shortest track on the album at a mere 3:13- I smell a future single…
Get ready to fall in love…
If you were smitten with Only Love from the last album, then prepare to be seduced once more by She Treats Me Well. There’s something soothing and uplifting about this simple little song that will stay with you long after listening.
Time is Dancing steers the tone of the record back to the haunting sound of the opening tracks. Time is clearly a concept that intrigues Ben as it features in several songs throughout the album. This is arguably the least memorable track on the album. For me, the song just never quite gets to where I want it to go with its repetitive riffs and recurring lyrics.
By Evergreen, the despondency begins to feel slightly overwhelming. Expect all joy to be sucked out of your body and replaced with a sweet melancholy as Ben moans: “bluest eyes against my own skin/ I have never been so cold.”
Mr Howard and Co. are no strangers to a musical climax and you’ll be screaming out loud by the time they reach the build up of End of the Affair. This track sure gets noisy. If you prefer your music of a more delicate nature then you are definitely in the wrong place. Otherwise, prepare to be seduced by a cacophony of unadulterated musical pleasure.
After the sweet chaos much of this album offers, Conrad serves as a delicately soft comparison. Think of it as a warming hug after the emotional rollercoaster endured. There is an almost twinkly quality to this track, but also an underlying complexity that combine for spine-tingling results.
All Is Now Harmed carries a surprising optimism for such a dramatically named track. There is a resolution here, finality. It’s been quite a journey reaching this point and Ben doesn’t leave us hanging. Five minutes of pure escapism.
Will this album appeal to everyone? Probably not. I Forget Where We Were is not background music. It is a glorious mélange of intricate instrumentation and haunting vocals that are a far cry from Ben’s earlier offerings. I was initially vary of this new sound, being such a fan of the more acoustic sound but this album has proved that change is not only good, it is essential.