I like this song too, probably because it sounds a lot darker and heavier than some of his earlier songs, similar to Black Flies and Depth over Distance. And like the greats, the song builds until it reaches the conversion of lyrics, electric guitar plucking and heavy drum beat, in an almost orchestral manner. I think that much of the emotion of the song is developed by the chilling beginning and the heavier tones of the electric guitar which steadily builds, rather than the lyrics alone. When you look at To Be Alone in comparison to songs such as Under The Same Sun and Keep Your Head Up, the emotions are on a different wavelength. In To Be Alone, you can hear the darkness of the music even without lyrics, which is one of the reasons the song resonates and one of the reasons I think so many people like it.
The muffled sounds of “I don’t need nobody to be alone” echoing and building in volume right from the beginning gives an almost atmospheric feeling, as if you are actually standing on a cliff surrounded by wind and rain; like in the video for Esmerelda. The whole EP has that feel; like you could be listening to it in a storm or standing on a beach in the rain. If that makes any sense at all.
The vocals are harsher I think in the Burgh Island EP, and especially in this song, when you compare to his previous music. The combination of the pronounced “I bite my tongue, there’s a fever, I will not let it show”, followed by the echoing of “to be alone” I think allow the words to resonate. You remember the lyrics, and you remember the haunting feeling.
I feel like this song is different from the others on the EP though, there’s a much more obvious change from the echoing and muffled guitar to the ‘clear’ and audible “and in the darkness a shallow voice…I bite my tongue, there’s a fever”, as if the tone of the emotion also changes. With few lyrics, their meaning and emotion is concentrated and enhanced by the heavy guitar sounds and the strong drum beat. I think in doing this, you are in a way, forced to take on the emotion they carry: “I don’t need nobody to be alone”.
I like the darker side of Ben Howard’s music, and I think the Burgh Island EP lets us hear the deeper emotion which is hinted at in Every Kingdom. Ben Howard has said: “it allows me to convey some of the heavier material. I can get louder”, which I like a lot. Both are full of emotion and themes of loss, love, and moving on, but in To Be Alone I feel like there’s more loathing than loving. Very different to the message I get from Every Kingdom (with exceptions), but in no way inferior.
Again I rambled on sorry! If anyone has anything to add, message me!
Thank you so much!
No!! :( I hate it when people do that… He’ll be back soon though I’m sure!
Just replied to the other post!
I’d say the themes of loss and moving are definitely present in his songs. He uses aspects of the natural world in lyrics such as: “we stood steady as the stars in the wood”, “everything around here stays like stone”, “free as the birds that fly”, “when everything around you’s changing like the weather, a big black storm”, “maybe you were the ocean, when I was just a stone” “troubles fall like rain dear, and lately it’s been pouring down” (to name a few), to describe human emotion or events. He references things such as birds, landscapes, the sun and water throughout his music. In doing this I think he makes his experiences seem more natural, like a natural process of life, love, loss, or moving on, just like the aspects of the natural world he’s referencing. In a way, this makes the experience more relatable as we can all relate to a time when we’ve encountered love and loss, as well as the need to move on. We’ve all experienced natural processes.
And then there’s the allusion to John Donne’s ‘No Man Is An Island’, which talks of the idea that no one is self-sufficient, which is interesting when you look at the song ‘Black Flies’.
Ben Howard said in an interview that most of the time he writes about “the people who come in and out of our lives, and the memories you form around them”. You can see that throughout Every Kingdom, Burgh Island and his older and most recent stuff. There’s the feeling of remembering (Old Pine, Gracious, Esmerelda, Black Flies). Whether those memories are good or bad is obvious I think as well, by the vibe of the song.
I feel like his songs are very emotional, and it’s not always completely obvious on the surface. For example Keep Your Head Up; the song seems happy but the lyrics are kind of sad yet hopeful as he talks of moving on from a major event (death of a girlfriend? The witnessing of someone’s down spiral?): “I’ll always remember you the same, eyes like wildflowers oh with your demons of change”. The theme of remembering is obvious here too.
His quieter, darker songs are my favourite though, like Promise, Depth over Distance and Black Flies, To Be Alone where the emotion spills out of the lyrics.
I think Ben Howard’s music gives off lots of different vibes depending on which song you’re listening to. I think each song contains a different experience and a different form of emotion, which is why so many people can relate aspects of their life to a song.
I rambled on a lot there sorry, and most of it probably doesn’t make much sense, but I hope I helped in some little way! If anyone else has anything to add please message me!