Ben Howard’s Passion is What Saves His Single

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Indie folk singer-songwriter Ben Howard has released a new single that showcases his abilities and channels several other artists. “I Forget Where We Were,” is a little awkward and a little derivative, but the vocals are engaging. There is a lot of passion in this song, and he wears it well.

A Little Awkward: The title had me twisting the words under my breath, trying to reshape a sentence that just doesn’t flow for some reason. The 15-second fade-in had me repeatedly checking my headphones to make sure they were plugged in. The song kind of lacks direction, and I couldn’t really tell where he was going with it. Not far, actually. But there are some climactic vocals around 3:16 that break it up a bit.

A Little Derivative: I’ve got to ask – am I crazy, or does his annunciation of “green, green grass” sound exactly like Adele? I know, it’s a weird thing to pin down. So here’s a big one. The melody sounded very much like Death Cab for Cutie’s “Bixby Canyon Bridge,” save Death Cab’s throbbing buildups. A few seconds in and I’m 100% convinced Ben Howard is their secret fifth member or somebody’s distant cousin, until the female vocalist slides in to harmonize at 2:35. Then it’s a Noah and the Whale song.

A Lot of Passion: Howard’s vocals are trembly and silky, and his emotion is what moves it along. The slight quavers as he forms each phrase make it feel natural, like you are sitting in his living room for a private performance. You can hear the reach of his range when he dips down in the line “Hello love, my invincible friend.” Like a straw stirring a glass of cool lemonade, he twirls the words “Oh your mind was marked and wounded with the wounder’s whip.” He really seems devoted to it.

When it comes down to it, I like Ben Howard more than I like his new single. His vocal ability is undeniable. But for me, “I Forget Where We Were” was too much like too many other songs. The similarities unfortunately made it a bit of a guessing game, and had me focusing more on other musicians than on him. I hope the rest of the album will be as special as he is.