Ben Howard

I Forget Where We Were

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Compared to his contemporary British folk-rock brethren, Ben Howard isn't hidebound to conventional notions of what constitutes folk. He clutched his acoustic throughout his 2011 debut Every Kingdom but where Jake Bugg and Ed Sheeran can't go a moment without strumming, Howard indulges in deep aural pools throughout 2014's I Forget Where We Were. It's not simply that there are abundant electric guitars on the album but that the production by Chris Bond (who doubles as the singer/songwriter's drummer) is painterly, filled with shimmering, evocative echo and light flourishes that accentuate either the nimbleness or meditation of his melodies. I Forget Where We Were is quite clearly a record made in the wake of Radiohead (not to mention Jeff Buckley) -- there's a distinct emphasis on languid, moody introspection -- but Howard is indeed a singer/songwriter first and foremost, so the seemingly amorphous whorl of the production gathers focus upon his songs. Certainly, this means the record sacrifices immediacy for sly assurance, but it's nice to hear a singer/songwriter so confident in his work that he doesn't rely on wide-eyed shtick: Howard expects you to meet him on his own terms and provides just enough aural enticement to give him not just one listen but a second, which is when I Forget Where We Were really begins to sink in its hooks.

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