With the release of his debut Every Kingdom in 2011, Ben Howard brought to the table an album that keeps giving more with every listen, and is still one of my favourite albums ever. Now he’s returned with his second album, I Forgot Where We Were, and it’s clear he hasn’t lost his touch over the past three years.
At its heart, it’s still the same mellow indie folk sound he forged last time out. However, this time, Howard has clearly tried to experiment with his sound, and in turn crafted something darker and much more overtly chilling than before. There’s a deviation made by Howard from the acoustic melodies we heard in Every Kingdom, this time exploring how electric guitar, and the effects that go with it, can elevate his stunning melodies further.
It’s apparent from the very beginning, when you hear the haunting echo on the guitar at the start of the first track “Small Things”, which then turns to a dissonance that we aren’t yet accustomed in Howard’s music. The same echo can be heard being used to equal success in the next track “Rivers In Your Mouth”, which is much more reminiscent of his previous work. The key thing that Howard has achieved throughout the album is knowing when to use these effects, and when to hold back, an aspect that many artists seem to struggle with.
It’s not all about how he’s manipulated the sound that makes this album so impressive though – his songwriting as a whole that has gotten better. Not taking anything away from his writing on Every Kingdom, which is impressive to say the least, but in his second attempt he has matured and made something far more dramatic. Here is where my favourite track of the album, “In Dreams“, comes into its own. Reminiscent of a Lindsey Buckingham riff, Howard creates a song that is deep and brooding both musically and lyrically, sure to draw you in every time.
“Always a riddle inside my head/ Always a thing to wonder the way we come to be/ Oh it’s a big old place for me, it’s a big old world indeed/ Everyone is killing me and everything conspires”
At times he can seem to be trying a bit too hard to be profound with his lyrics, but with every song on the album, he has produced something a bit special. Though it may not have the distinction of Every Kingdom, I Forgot Where We Were is a powerful piece of songwriting, and a reminder that Ben Howard is very much one of the best singer-songwriters in Britain.