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In the Post #163: Ben Howard follows his ‘Noonday Dream’ with three new tracks, including a surprise collaboration with alt-pop duo Sylvan Esso

 
By on Tuesday, 25th September 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Summer may be drawing to a close, but reminiscences of warm and sunny days are still fresh in our collective memory. With this in mind, singer/songwriter Ben Howard has just released a handful of new singles hot on the heels of his summer LP ‘Noonday Dream’, which was released back in June. As often happens, the recording sessions for the album were overly prolific, but in a fortunate sort of way. Howard himself says, “The recording sessions for ‘Noonday Dream’ were so varied and over quite a period of time. There were little gems that we didn’t know what to do with, but it felt right to put these three together, both separate and a part of the album, so to speak.”

One of those so-called gems is a surprise collaboration between Howard and American electro-pop duo Sylvan Esso. Called ‘Hot Heavy Summer’, the track does indeed feel tangentially related to the ephemeral vignettes on ‘Noonday Dream’. The addition of Amelia Meath’s backing vocals keeps the soundscape brighter and more buoyant than the title might imply, while the rounded hollow of the percussion beat lends a very definite substance to Howard’s otherwise evanescent arrangement. Apropos to the song’s title, ‘Hot Heavy Summer’ was featured as Annie Mac’s Hottest Record in the World last Thursday, 13th September. Speaking on BBC Radio 1, Howard related that Meath’s lilting voice came immediately to mind for this song: “Amelia is just incredible, fortune prevailed, and we managed to get in the studio. I had it in the back of my mind as soon as we initially recorded ‘Hot Heavy Summer’ that the track just felt right for her.” If you’re interested in the full radio clip, you can listen back to it for a limited time on the BBC Radio 1 iPlayer.

‘Hot Heavy Summer’ is accompanied by two other tracks leftover from the ‘Noonday Dream’ sessions, a dark narrative called ‘Another Friday Night’ and the electronically experimental ‘Sister’. While these tracks don’t quite fit into the artistically cinematic nature of ‘Noonday Dream’, Howard is right in saying that they’re too good to go unheard. You can take a listen to all three tracks via Spotify, just below.

8.5/10

Ben Howard has a run of live dates in the UK planned for this winter, including two nights at the Manchester Apollo in December and three nights at London’s Brixton Academy after the start of the new year. Tickets for the following shows are available now.

Friday 7th December – Glasgow Hydro Arena
Saturday 8th December – Cardiff Motorpoint Arena
Monday 10th December – Manchester Apollo
Tuesday 11th December – Manchester Apollo
Wednesday 16th January 2019 – London Brixton Academy
Thursday 17th January 2019 – London Brixton Academy
Friday 18th January 2019 – London Brixton Academy

You can read TGTF’s past coverage of Ben Howard right back here, and our coverage of Sylvan Esso is collected through here.

 

Video of the Moment #2846: Ben Howard

 
By on Monday, 4th June 2018 at 6:00 pm
 

Last Friday, Devon singer/songwriter Ben Howard released his latest album, ‘From Noonday Dream’. We previously previewed the new release with Carrie’s review of the LP’s first single, ‘A Boat to an Island on the Wall’. You can read her review of it through here. To celebrate the album’s drop, Howard has unveiled a beautiful video – well, actually, more like a mini-film – for ‘Nica Libres at Dusk’, which he filmed and directed with Australian cinematographer Allan Wilson in the evocative environment of the Atlas Mountains. Watch it below. For all of our past coverage on Ben Howard here on TGTF, follow this link.

 

In the Post #160: Ben Howard announces his new album ‘Noonday Dream’ with first single ‘A Boat to an Island on the Wall’

 
By on Monday, 9th April 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

If you follow Ben Howard‘s social media, you might have noticed a quiet but mysterious breeze blowing around his internet persona recently. That soft breeze became a full blown wind last Wednesday, as Howard announced the impending release of ‘Noonday Dream’, his first solo album in 4 years, which follows his breathtaking 2014 album ‘I Forget Where We Were’. Howard hasn’t been entirely idle in the interim, releasing an EP and a full long player last year with his side project A Blaze of Feather.

Howard has previewed ‘Noonday Dream’ with lead single ‘A Boat to an Island on the Wall’, which received its first radio play last Wednesday on BBC Radio 1 with Annie Mac. In the accompanying interview with the DJ legend, Howard himself described the song as “a bit of a patchwork quilt”. He went on to briefly explain the song’s birth and evolution over time: “It went through a lot of different lives, this one, and I think you can sort of tell.”

Indeed, the song’s soundscape moves through palpable stages over the course of its 7-minute duration, starting with an a harsh, synthetic intro and progressing to a lighter acoustic backdrop under Howard’s softly intoned vocals. The entire recording has a broad, airy quality, in contrast to some of the heavier tones he’s taken in the past, and distant voices in the background suggest a vast sense of open space. About halfway through the track, layers of percussion and keyboards add light and color to the sonic palette, and the texture thickens dramatically with the introduction of a dark guitar melody near the end.

Produced by Howard himself and recorded at various locations in England and France, ‘A Boat to an Island on the Wall’ sounds like not only a continuation of what Howard did on ‘I Forget Where We Were’, but an even further extension of that atmospheric neo-folk sound. Lyrically the new song is as evocative and elusive as Howard has ever been in his writing, but musically he extends well beyond his acoustic folk rock beginnings. Take a listen to ‘A Boat to an Island off the Wall’ via Spotify at the bottom of this post.

8.5/10

‘Noonday Dream’ is due out on the 1st of June on Island Records. Just after the album’s release, Howard will play the below list of live dates in the UK. Listen back to Ben Howard’s interview with Annie Mac on BBC Radio 1 and the song’s first play through here; the stream will be available for the next 24 days. find TGTF’s past coverage of Ben Howard back through here.

Wednesday 13th June 2018 – London Hammersmith Apollo
Thursday 14th June 2018 – London Hammersmith Apollo
Thursday 28th June 2018 – Edinburgh Playhouse
Friday 29th June 2018 – Manchester Albert Hall
Saturday 30th June 2018 – Cornwall Eden Sessions

 

Video of the Moment #1686: Ben Howard

 
By on Sunday, 23rd November 2014 at 10:00 am
 

‘I Forget Where We Were’ is the title track on Ben Howard‘s stunning recent LP, released in back in October, reviewed here. The starkly metaphorical new video, a directorial debut for Howard, features a slightly-shortened version of the track and plays off of the song’s abstractly poetic lyrics, visually capturing the balance between romance and realism in just the way Howard’s music does on the album.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/TpeK3zvmx2c[/youtube]

 

Ben Howard / April 2015 UK Tour

 
By on Tuesday, 28th October 2014 at 9:00 am
 

Singer/songwriter Ben Howard has just announced a set of arena dates for next spring, following on his already sold out December 2014 tour. Howard’s sophomore LP ‘I Forget Where We Were’ debuted at number 1 in the UK charts after its release on the 20th of October. Below the tour date listing, you can listen to the official audio for album track ‘Conrad’. Presale for the following shows will begin tomorrow, Wednesday the 29th of October, at 9 AM, with general sale starting at 9 AM on Friday, the 31st of October.

Monday 13th April 2015 – Liverpool Echo
Thursday 16th April 2015 – London Alexandra Palace
Monday 20th April 2015 – Birmingham NIA
Tuesday 21st April 2015 – Cardiff Motorpoint Arena
Thursday 23rd April 2015 – Leeds Arena
Friday 24th April 2015 – Glasgow SSE Hydro
Saturday 25th April 2015 – Newcastle Metro Radio Arena

[youtube]http://youtu.be/OYR6A47DK-Q[/youtube]

 

Album Review: Ben Howard – I Forget Where We Were

 
By on Wednesday, 22nd October 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

Ben Howard 'I Forget Where We Were' coverWhen an artist’s debut album garners a Mercury Prize nomination and two Brit Awards, following it up with a second full release must seem a monumental proposition. Undaunted by his early success with 2011’s ‘Every Kingdom’, Ben Howard has succeeded in not only fulfilling but exceeding the expectations he set forth for himself with his new release, ‘I Forget Where We Were’. Where ‘Every Kingdom’ alternated between quiet introspection and uptempo folk-pop, ‘I Forget Where We Were’ takes a darker, more dramatic turn, replacing carefully crafted hooks with broader instrumental sections and an extended sonic palette.

Produced once again by drummer Chris Bond, ‘I Forget Where We Were’ is more pared back than the lengthy ‘Every Kingdom’, but the individual songs on the new album are characteristically expansive, with 7 of the 10 tracks exceeding the 5-minute mark. Most notable among those is the epic ‘End of the Affair’. Though it appears late in the overall sequence, the early single release of this song set the tone for the album, swapping Howard’s usual warm acoustic instrumental setting for one based in the echoes of electric guitars. Which is not to say that the song lacks emotional connection; indeed Howard’s rasping vocals drip with the sad bitterness of his lyrics. Each repeat of the chorus – “living without her / living at all / seems to slow me down / living forever / hell, I don’t know / do I care, do I care / the thunder’s rumbled sound” – is more anguished building into the frenetic, breathtaking coda.

The evocatively reverberant electric guitar riff of opening track ‘Small Things’ introduces the new sound without preface, offsetting the ominous vocal line of the chorus, “has the world gone mad or is it me? / all these small things, they gather round me”. The deep angst in the closing instrumental section segues flawlessly into the driving beat of second track ‘Rivers in Your Mouth’. Title track and recent single ‘I Forget Where We Were’ is more rock than folk with its wailing guitars and crashing cymbals. The electric guitar solo in the bridge section perfectly illustrates the growing dissonance and despair of a relationship starting to unravel.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ki5HBBEtfak[/youtube]

Among the howling guitars and propulsive drums, Howard weaves in hints of his signature acoustic folk sound. The rhythmic finger-picked guitar figure of ‘In Dreams’ is both ethereal and portentously energetic, matched with a moaning hum in the backing vocals and and a bowed string countermelody. ‘She Treats Me Well’ is a soulful acoustic ballad whose slight blues inflection grows stronger as its equally blues-tinged lyrics play out.

Amazingly, the songs on ‘I Forget Where We Were’ maintain their high level of intensity and focus into the second half of the album. ‘Evergreen’ pinpoints the distant wintery chill that characterises most of the record, the lyric “there in the lights you said something, but I can’t remember what” capturing the essence of memory that is fading, yet still haunting in its emotion. In standout track ‘Conrad’, Howard makes lyrical reference to Polish-English author Joseph Conrad, comparing his former lover to the breached ship in Conrad’s ‘Lord Jim’ and his protagonist to the novel’s title character. Closing track ‘All is Now Harmed’ continues the theme of disillusionment, but returns to a more sensual musicality, building to a soaring instrumental dynamic with the repeated chorus “what is in your nature looms inside your blood / hold me in harm’s wake, baby, all is now harmed”.

Thematically, ‘I Forget Where We Were’ combines restrained intellect with a sense of slow-burning emotion just below the surface. It’s not as heart-on-sleeve as ‘Every Kingdom’, but musically, it has more edge, more bite. Howard has refined his songwriting to the point where every sonic choice has definite musical or emotional intent, and the concentrated tracklisting allows each song to deliver its full emotional impact. It’s rare to hear a sophomore album more powerful than its hit predecessor debut, especially one as critically acclaimed as ‘Every Kingdom’, but Howard has truly outdone himself here.

9/10

‘I Forget Where We Were’ by Ben Howard is out now on Universal/Island Records. Howard will embark on a sold out tour of the UK and Ireland in December.

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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