Fresh from the shores of the UK, singer-songwriter Ben Howard recently released his second full-length studio album, I Forget Where We Were. Clinging to the mellow and folk-like tones of his first album Every Kingdom (2011), but adding in a darker, eerier twist, Howard once again transcends the genre with alluring melodies and shadowy lyrics.
Perhaps sampling from his English surfing scene roots, Howard has a gift for creating immersive music. Half the time, Howard has his listeners clinging to the railing of a ship on a tossing ocean as they watch a storm rage around them in slow motion. The other half of the time, they’re going between the cloudy English shores and the shadowy English woods, chasing something unknown, or perhaps running from something unseen. The album is perfect for long plays, as on a drive or walk, since the tracks flow seamlessly in tone and mood. However, it might prove repetitive for listeners who prefer more variety in their music.
Upon close examination, Howard’s lyrics read like poetry, in line with the genre, and touch on such poetic topics as love, the self, and, in his dark manner, even triumph. “I’m finally coloring / inside the lines I live between” Howard croons in “Time Is Dancing,” something we are all trying to do ourselves. In “Small Things” Howards’ lines “has the world gone mad / or is it me?” bring in Gothic tones to the album, beginning a familiar dance Howard plays with ideas of depression and uncertainty.
Highlights of the track include the crisp “I Forget Where We Were,” the haunting “Conrad,” and the dark “In Dreams,” which displays Howard’s skill in manipulating a guitar. “In Dreams” is perhaps the most promising on the album, as it hints at Howards’ ability to do something other than a sleepy ballad.
Overall, the album is perfect for lazy Sunday evenings, or rainy autumn days, but none of the tracks really stand out from any of the others on the album. From Every Kingdom, Howard has delved into the darker side of his talent in I Forget Where We Were, nearly to a fault. Whereas Every Kingdom included more variation in the tempo and the instrumentals, I Forget Where We Were falls into a dreary and stormy slump that we can only hope Howard can pull himself out of in the future. Howard has great potential as a leading singer-songwriter, but until he stops writing the same song ten times and calling it an album, Howard may fail to appeal to a wider audience.