Ben Howard: I Forget Where We Were

ben howardBen Howard
I Forget Where We Were
(Universal Records)

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For most artists, the sophomore album is a crucial turning point, the chance to prove that the success of a debut isn’t a fluke. Lead singles are often calculated, carefully chosen. To represent his second LP, Ben Howard led with the single “End of the Affair,” a sprawling track nearly eight minutes long and with a title and pained lyrics that call to mind a Graham Greene classic. It’s a risk, but a subtle one, something that represents I Forget Where We Were quite well.

The album itself is a sly collection of acoustic tracks, smooth enough to slide under your radar until they come back to mind time and time again. Most of the songs on this album are over five minutes long, an investment of time that brings to mind classic folk rather than the frivolous state of pop music.

Opening track “Small Things” is a quiet sort of city protest song where Howard wonders, “Has the world gone mad, or is it me?” Often there is a preoccupation to Howard’s lyrics (“I was watching Syria blinded by the Sunset Strip,” he says in the title track), but such is the confusion of modern life. However, there is optimism even in the darkness. As he states in “In Dreams, “I may be troubled, but I’m gracious in defeat.”

I Forget Where We Were is worth listening to not just for the lyrics, but for the beautiful instrumentation. “In Dreams” has an Appalachian folk tinge, while the guitar work on “Evergreen” only serves to complement the vocals. Howard practices the philosophy of less is more, and here it serves to create a lingering impression.

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About Casey Hicks

Casey Hicks toils her daylight hours away in an office high above Manhattan in order to afford nights of passionately scribbling. The first song she remembers ever hearing is "Lola" by the Kinks. She thinks this explains a lot.
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