Best Albums Ever: I Forget Where We Were – Ben Howard
Ben Howard’s second LP is, for me, one of the boldest steps an artist can take in the music industry. Many artists with a slightly-poppy debut album (such as Mr Howard’s Every Kingdom) find themselves sucked into commercialism by the time their sophomore effort is released, which means many of these ‘second albums’ end up being heavily diluted with meaningless, generic, non-sincere songs aimed for the most profitable market. Ben has seen this potential occurrence and shoved it in the complete opposite direction. He could have easily sat back, let the label and producers do most of the work, and ended up with even heavier pockets than his first LP earned him. Instead, he made the bold, yet truly inspiring decision to stay true to himself and create an arguably less accessible, but in no way less impacting record. His integrity is awe-inspiring.
The album opens with a surprising change of tone compared to opener Old Pine of Every Kingdom, and instantly you are struck with the realisation that this is a much darker, more emotional album. The almost chilling echoed effects of Small Things gradually build into a climax of symbols and harmonised acoustics, which fade out just in time for second song Rivers In Your Mouth to enter; a slower but more atmospheric track and a good warm-down from the tense ending of Small Things. The third song, lead single and title track I Forget Where We Were, maintains the constant chilling nature of RIYM, but drops to an even slower and beautiful chorus, with Howard and tour buddy India Bourne harmonising the distinct lyric “But I forget where we were”.
Then out pops the album’s outlier In Dreams; a folk-influenced, almost medieval acoustic-heavy song with yet again another chilling ending. What becomes apparent this early on is how many of the songs in this LP have a very thorough climax, where we don’t often hear Ben’s voice, but the instrumentals are enough to create intensity. There is no better example of this than the almost-eight-minute epic that is End Of The Affair, listed at number eight out of the ten songs on the record. Four-and-a-half minutes of yet again atmospheric, emotional instrumentals and lyrics: “Now I watch her running round in love again”, suddenly snap into a frenzy of fingerpicking, deep drums and bitterly shouted “What the hell?”s. You won’t care how long the song is; time seems to stop once it starts (and it’s even better live!). Straight after this comes Conrad, arguably the most relaxing and melodic track on the record, which is, again, the perfect warm-down of a hard-hitting end.
These are just some of the features of an album that is so incredibly honest, genuine and passionate. If you’re stuck on new artists for having similar songs, try searching for integrity instead, and you’ll find Ben Howard.
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