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Ben Howard’s latest effort offers divergent, but honest work

Singer-songwriter drifts from optimistic subjects, examines personal disenchantment

Successful musicians are usually known for a specific quality — an “X” factor. For Ben Howard, his insightful lyrics bring up questions of life, love and self-realization, setting him apart from the monotony of dull lyrics littering the pop charts.

This trait are on full display in Howard's latest album, “I Forgot Where We Were,” which dropped Oct. 20.

These album's lyrics, paired with Howard’s soothing melodies, create a mellow arena. The titular track offers a catchy tune with an upbeat tempo, as Howard chirps “Hello, love” in a charming, sing-song voice.

Howard hits bigger issues with his first track, “Small Things,” reciting the line “Has the world gone mad/ Or is it me?” This contemplative line sets the tone for the album.

Howard’s lyrics dig deep in “In Dreams,” as he says, “It's a big old world indeed / Kicking my heels and wondering how I've been here so long.” His inability to ignore and downplay his thoughts on powerful emotions makes Howard an honest writer, encouraging listeners to take part in his thought process.

The sixth track, “Time is Dancing,” offers the listener a long, slow build-up — the music isn’t audible until 25 seconds in. The listener grows impatient, underscoring the song's message about waiting and time.

But grounding the album is Howard's exploration of love — a common trope, but one which he examines deftly. He seems disillusioned, singing, “This is it / This is just it / Go to him / What the hell, love? / What the hell?” on the track “End of the Affair.” In the album's final track, “Conrad," his disenchantment shines stronger as he croons, “We're alone / Just like you said / Cold cold world.”

His brutal honesty, paired with his gentle voice, make for a charming appeal.

The album is a marked shift from his earlier work, and it will be difficult for the album to compete with his 2011 release, “Every Kingdom,” which engaged listeners worldwide. But Howard's honest intentions and comforting tones make for a solid start in a new direction.


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