Its got to that time now where we’ve said our goodbyes to summer for another year, and school, college or university is back in full swing. But there’s no need to get too down about all the work that might be piling up around you, just keep your head up as the release of Ben Howard’s eagerly anticipated sophomore album I Forget Where We Were is just around the corner.
Back in 2011, he wowed us all with virtually unassailable mastery of the acoustic guitar, to such a level that stalwarts of the playing style like Lindsey Buckingham (Fleetwood Mac) and Jeff Beck would be proud. However, with this new collection of songs, Ben has chosen to expand his stripped-back resonance into the electrical world of effects and tones, relying less on the intricate runs and anthemic choruses that were crux of his full-length debut Every Kingdom, but by no means wiping the slate clean completely.
It’s that general absence of Ben’s synonymous style on this record that makes tracks such as ‘In Dreams’ a refreshingly welcome component. With its mazy combination of folksy slides and intricate finger-picking, the song has a naturally distinct flow, like a river of verse and melody meandering through the chorused hills, dipping under the bridges all the way down to its fading coastal conclusion.
The very same could be said of a considerable portion of the album, including ‘She Treats Me Well’, which incidentally immediately follows the aforementioned ‘In Dreams’. Somewhat contrasting is the title track ‘I Forget Where We Were’; this is by a clear margin the record’s most extravagant chapter due to its efflorescent utilisation of the electric guitar, creating an epitomic ethereal aura reflecting elements of each of the nine other compositions.
The first single release from the album: ‘End Of The Affair’ is yet another sign of Howard’s intention to push the boundaries with the extensive pallet of tools available to him, as its commodious ambience coupled with gentle yet purposeful vocals transpires into a nefarious breakdown, teasing the encapsulated listener with false glimpses of a crescendo that never comes to fruition.
Of the album’s title itself, Howard stated that it was “a general thing about being in your 20s, when you start having a look around a bit at trends and fads and what kids are doing and all of a sudden having a consciousness of all that” and “wondering what my purpose is in it. It’s about an overall confusion.”
With all things considered, it is more than safe to say that with his follow-up to ‘Every Kingdom’, Ben Howard has avoided the formidable ‘second-album-syndrome’ with glittering success, having produced a record that evokes the heart, imagination and intellectual prowess of his debut as well as generating a whole new innovative dimension to his music.
The album is scheduled for release on the 20th October
Words by Alex Graham