Thursday, 22 March 2012

Ben Howard - Every Kingdom [CD] [QUICK&SHORT]

So What's It All About?
Debut album from Devon-based singer-songwriter, Ben Howard, released in the UK last Autumn and due to be released in America in a couple of weeks' time. Released on the Island Records label, which has signed many of the UK's greatest folk musicians, such as Nick Drake and John Martyn. Howard's style is a warm, slightly-simplistic folk that lends itself well to the recent popularity and rise of "new folk" with artists such as Mumford and Sons.

+++ Very pretty +++ The album is full of both warm, heartfelt numbers and several tracks that are clear single material - this is definitely a good album. The songs are well arranged and have a very nice flow to them, seamlessly moving from bright and fresh early tracks to toned-down tunes later on. Ben's voice is nice and works well with the guitar - and the album sounds as though it would work well as a live set too.

So Is It Any Good Then?
+++ Chart Material +++ Tracks such as The Wolves (above) and Old Pine are certainly worth a place in the charts - with catchy melodies and a simple arrangement to hook people in. They are now gaining a bit more recognition - The Wolves has been used for short films and is surely perfect for adverts of some kind - and the track Promise featured in the most recent episode of U.S. TV drama House.

--- Simplistic --- The lack of any variety in instrumentals and vocals, both style and patterns - while making a very coherent and flowing album, it means that it feels slightly stale towards the end. It is rounded off beautifully though, with the soft harmonious lullaby that is Promise, but although some of the middle tracks are very pleasant to listen to, they do not have that inspired appeal that some of his other songs do. Variety in songs wasn't necessarily needed, but certainly a greater range of vocals and instruments would have helped to hold my attention.

There is certainly enough great tracks on here to deserve a mention - and the singles on the album should gain Ben some well-earned attention.

The album is nicely written and gains merit for being a coherent and structured piece, with common musical beats and scales building to give Ben a nice signature "sound".

With a bit more variety - branching out into other instruments or daring to try some more emotive vocals - then the album could have been a much deeper and striking piece.

Still a great debut, Ben.

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