To The City, Ben Howard
Can’t actually remember if I’ve posted this before or not. Oh well,
Hey, different places say that he was raised “by musical parents who exposed him to their favourite records from singer-songwriter artists from the 60s and 70s”. Growing up he was “strongly influenced” by people like Simon & Garfunkel (makes sense that he’d do that amazing version of ‘The Boxer’ then!), John Martyn (again, another great cover: ‘Couldn’t Love You More’), Van Morrison and Joni Mitchell.
In an interview with American Songwriter he said: “When I was a little kid I listened to James Taylor; my parents played that for me. I’m constantly being influenced. I listen to songs nowadays and I’m like ‘wow, I’d love to write a song nearly like that’. I’ve everything from Bon Iver to The Black Keys to Tom Martin, Dylan, everything in between.”
He also has a posterous blog where he posts music he likes and his influences which you should definitely check out! It’s under the Blog tab of his official website.
Hope that helps :)
Hey, yeah they are so different. I feel like they fit somewhere between Every Kingdom and the Burgh Island EP. In the way that although they’re not as melodic and not as peaceful almost (thinking of Promise and Everything, but I feel like peaceful is the wrong word here, anyway) they have that darkness and emotional depth obvious in Burgh Island and shown in parts of Every Kingdom (Black Flies, 7 Bottles). I like this middle category though, it’s definitely different, but the songs are still so intrinsically Ben Howard somehow. Ben said that the “overall sentiment” of the new album is a “sort of mix of quietness and aggression”, which I guess fits into that.
I like how the emotions feel so raw in these songs because of the relatively stripped down beginnings; like in the beginning of End of the Affair, it’s such a chilling start, with the notes so pronounced and the words relatively repetitive. It lets you focus on the heaviness of the emotions which are then made more and more obvious as the song builds and you keep hearing “now I watch her running round in love again, now I talk about you when I’m with our mutual friends”. It’s slow and almost conversational, which I like. It’s the same in I Forget Where We Were. I also love the echoing in End of the Affair, which was heard as well in To Be Alone; it gives that feeling that you can be standing on a beach in the middle of a storm haha, or on a cliff surrounded by wind and rain, like in the Esmerelda video.
I wasn’t too sure about Conrad when I first heard it, but then when I heard it live I understood it a bit more. He did it so well that you just had to love it. And there were parts of End of The Affair I didn’t really like either, but then I heard it live. He did this thing with his guitar where he yelled into the sound hole, it made everything echo and you could just see how incredible his music is and how well put together the songs are. It’s like the tapping on the guitar which he does in songs like Keiko and Empty Corridors, just so cool!
The three songs that he’s released so far all build in that way that make a Ben Howard song so brilliant. They start chilling and a bit haunting, and just steadily build to this conversion of heavy drum beats, electric guitar and the yelled vocals (even though it’s not as pronounced in Conrad). My favourite songs of his are the ones that do this: Depth over Distance, Under The Same Sun, Black Flies, End of the Affair, To Be Alone. I like how the emotions are amplified as the music gets more intense and more ‘together’. So in that sense, although the new songs sound different, they’re just as amazing. I also like the ‘shouty’ side of Ben Howard, which has come out more, like in I Forget Where We Were and also Black Flies, when he yells parts of the lyrics.
Like Burgh Island did, I think the new album will let him show different emotions, darker emotions. It’s exciting; a new side to his music. But yeah definitely different. I do hope that there’s a few acoustic sounding tracks though: the really stripped down songs are always so so good and are easy to connect to. I’m happy that the new stuff isn’t a sell out to the crowds he pulls now, it sounds idiosyncratically Ben Howard while being so different, which is weird; the songs sound like he could be playing them back in 2010/11 which makes me love him even more. Although at first I wasn’t too sure on his new music, they’ve definitely proved themselves to be of the caliber of his older work, and I can’t wait to hear the rest of his album and be able to hear more of this mix of “quietness and aggression”.
Sorry I rambled too much there!! If anyone has anything to add, message me.