Released: 20th October 2014
Label: Island Records
After three years waiting, Ben Howard is finally back with his second full-length album. With I Forget Where We Were, the singer/song-writer keep showing off his talents as an unusually poetic lyricist, while at the same time diving deeper into the darker and more melancholic sides of his musical soul. The album is definitely more mature than the more light-toned debut album Every Kingdom. With an intriguing, yet unsettling tone throughout the record, Howard leaves the listener with the feeling of inspiring restlessness. Left more confused than satisfied – “Has the world gone mad / or is it me?” – has no negative effect on the end result what so ever. Howard admirably dares to challenge the ear with more complicated musical compositions, dragging us into the darker corners of his mind.
The album starts off interesting; Small Things captures the attention at ones with a resonating electric guitar and Howard’s unique and entrancing voice. Left alert after the first song, it’s impossible not to sit the whole album out. Some might find the melancholic tone appearing on every track a bit repetitive, but if you’re paying attention, Howard’s extreme musical talent will take you on a journey with every song building up in unusual ways. The tone set from the beginning is developed and challenged on different levels throughout, leaving me mind-blown in a peculiar but fulfilling way, definitely more musically intelligent than 54 minutes earlier.
The sudden shift in tone for a mere 5 minutes with She Treats Me Well, as the middle point of the album, gives the mind a much needed brake to recap and refuel for the staggering second half. “I am finally coloring / outside the lines that I live between.” Howard certainly is. He might leave listeners wondering what happened to him in life, inspiring him to explore the darker path. It all feels a bit obscure, but then again there is no arguing that life-experience, often the ones that leave some scars, can be inspiration to the most outstanding pieces of art. With his second album, Howard certainly provides further proof to the theory that hurting artists make the best art.
I could go on forever about the musical development in Howard’s album, but I cannot leave this review off without mentioning and giving tribute to the piece of music that astonished me the most, the one track that left me lying crawled up in foster position on the floor, tears trickling down my cheek, body shaking, more Goosebumps popping out for every note. The venerating 7 minutes and 46 seconds long astonishing, agonizing piece of art – End of the Affair. On the 4 minutes mark, the song transforms, elements in the first half of the song progressing from what makes me want to curl up in a ball and cry, to wanting to run through the rain like a madman. Holy crap, it is so heavy.
With this said, the album does end on a slightly lighter tone with Conrad and All Is Now Harmed. Still, the 8 minutes long work of art produced by this guy gave me one of the most mind rocking experiences of my life. He has for sure earned my respect, and I cannot wait to see where his musical journey will take us next.
★ ★ ★ ★ ½