Album Review: Ben Howard – Noonday Dream

Words by Callum Sheppard

When Ben Howard’s debut album Every Kingdom arrived in September 2011, there was at the time a large group of British male artists who all seemed quite similar in their efforts. We’d just come out of the indie landfill years and there was a small lull with certain genres. What was enjoyable however was the prospect of someone who could alleviate the mindlessness of certain elements of acoustic guitar-based music around at the start of the decade. It might’ve taken Ben another three years and a strong defeat of the well-known second album syndrome to really come into his own, but even now in 2018, he’s known as a quality musician with no obvious criticisable connections to those early sounds he came through with.

Noonday Dream is a stunning reintroduction (and then some) of the surprising elements produced on 2014’s I Forgot Where We Were, maintaining his love for more electric-based noise, whilst consistently peering out of view with varying instrumental changes. At times there tends to be a furore of sound stacked high upon one another, whether it be mellow or courageously brazen.

Although many of the tracks throughout might stem significantly from his earlier works, they’re just as memorable as those he rode in on years ago. Self-producing the album, he appears to be an expert in knowing when to use his voice at its lonesome best and when to let his instruments take charge. At times it really does feel like a lonesome album, similar to the emotional landscape produced on his last record. Not in the heart-wrenching style, more the softness on wandering anywhere by yourself and the calmness that only you can create by being alone. That’s something that you feel listening to the songs, closer ‘Murmurations’ especially, encompassing your ears in its wonder and then letting it drift off to peace.

Ben Howard makes beautiful music, no-one can deny that. One thing that I did wonder about was how weird it might appear for the first couple of listens – whether a deeper exploration into something unpredictable would ultimately resonate with most, with many tracks going through an eventual transformation at the upcoming live shows.

Whilst there may not be anything that similar to ‘End of the Affair’ from his last effort, his insane ability to hold every inch of poignancy is certainly not lessened. As much as certain artists wish they could have that ability consistently over three albums, it’s safe to say not everyone can do that. However, for Ben Howard, it’s one of the easiest jobs in the world.