With his second album ‘I Forgot Where We Were’ due for release later this month, Ben Howard needs little introduction after his stellar debut ‘Every Kingdom’ that saw him scoop two Brit Awards last year. Playing a few live sets over recent weeks, his new material has been aired for the first time after a lengthy absence. In this case, the tracks have been worth every moment of the wait.
Beyond a turn towards a more FX fuelled guitar style, what is immediately striking about the evolution of Howard’s sound is its more expansive character. Previous tracks like ‘Old Pine’ also possessed a journey-like quality to them, with all their breaks, peaks and troughs, but the new material feels like an Odyssey. The drum lines in ‘Time is Dancing’ and ‘Rivers In Your Mouth’ lead the listener down their own river, at a march not a stroll, and all the while subtle melodic and rhythmic transformations fill an ever-changing backdrop. Everything feels wonderfully natural, but meticulously thought out at the same time.
The expansive space of the tracks is also a product of their length; the stunning ‘End Of The Affair’ lasts almost 8 minutes. It’s a song of chapters, and epitomises the voyaging essence of this new work that takes its time with confidence… perhaps in a way that only a second album can. A wintry work in comparison to the sun and surf of ‘Every Kingdom’, ‘I Forgot Where We Were’ is a remarkable restoration. With many of the tracks recorded in live takes despite all their subtle complexity, Ben Howard’s fast approaching tour promises to be spectacular.