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I have been listening to ben howard for over a year now. I got first bought his album after hearing a couple of songs recommended by one of my brothers. The entire album is brilliant from start to finish if you like acoustic/easy listening music.
The album changes from song to song in brilliant fashion and no songs are the same. Some songs have a upbeat feel to them that put a little spring in your step or get you tapping your feet along with them. It is a surprise to me that more of his songs don't make their way into the charts or on to the radio. But then again you very rarely do find this kind of music in the charts too much.
Old pine opens up the album with a brilliant mellow summer feel to it before slowing down. The whole album just makes me think of the summer from 2012. This album was my soundtrack for the summer. Song 7 is probably the one song most people will have heard, Keep your head up. Again another upbeat song made perfectly for sunny summer days.
The last three songs, black flies, gracious and promise are perfect album ending songs. They are slowed down songs that just make you want to sit back and relax in front of a fire. The slow but full melody and beautifully crafted lyrics.
This is an album that people should at least try once, I am sure that you won't be disappointed. The music and lyrics will just relax you. This will appeal to fans of City and Colour.
Ben Howard is a twenty five year old guitarist and singer song writer who was born in West London and grew up in Devon. He recently shot to fame after releasing several succesful singles which were played by the DJ Zane Lowe who took a liking to his music. His singles became popular amongst radio one listeners and in late 2011 he released his debut album. As a child, Ben's musical parents introduced him to some of their favourite records from singer song writer artists, most of which were from the 60's and 70's. Ben began playing the guitar and writing songs in his early teens and has stated that two of his strongest influences are Joni Mitchell and the legendary Bob Dylan - other influences include Nina Simone and John Martyn.
He also mentioned on his Myspace page that he listens to Bon Iver a lot, which had most definitely made a noticeable inpact on his overall sound - as a fan of Bon Iver myself, I love how he incorporates hints of other artist's styles into his music but easily makes them his own with his unique, rich & passionate voice and musical style - he has a fantastic flair for the guitar. Ben briefly studied journalism at University College Falmouth in Cornwall, however soon decided that it wasn't for him and dropped out. In 2009 at the age of twenty one, Ben decided that music was something he wanted to do full time and his aim was to become a full-time musician. After playing at numerous gigs in Devon and around the UK, Ben was a well known musician and was known as a hero. After becoming increasingly popular and having sell-out gigs, Ben was signed to Island records, which is an indie record label. Since then, Ben has released one extended play entitled 'These Waters' and his debut album - Every Kingdom - was released on the 30th September 2011.
Ben's genre of music varies from song to song, but his overall style is very indie and folk/folk rock. Wikipedia state his genre as 'rootsy folk' which sums it up well! He is characterized by his individual way of guitar playing and says that he surfs, probably drinks too much, definitely thinks too much and at 25 still makes irrational choices. He says that he's happiest at home with friends, his favoruite fruit is a pear and he likes the outdoors and Autumn. He definitely comes across as a nice, down to earth guy which makes his music even better because his personality and emotions are clearly and seemingly effortlessy through his voice. I first came across Ben's music earlier this year, so I suppose I was quite late jumping onto the Ben Howard bandwagon!
I only came across him because I decided to Google the lyrics of a catchy song that I had heard on the radio - turns out that it was The Wolves by Ben Howard and I instantly became hooked and a few days after checking out some of his songs on Youtube, I purchased his album on iTunes. I have since seen been lucky enough to see him play live and I have introduced a number of my friends to his music because he deserves all the recognition he can get, and he's now a well known name now amongst my circle of friends and even my boyfriend enjoys a majority of his songs - impressive considering my boyfriend's favourite music artists include Eminem and Lil Wayne! Ben's gentle and unique vocal style is the main reason why I am such a big fan of his music - I find his voice really relaxing and re-assuring, and I love his lyrics as I can easily tell that all of his songs are personal to him as he portrays all ranges of emotions extremely well in his songs and he has an impressive vocal range.
His songs do vary in subject matter, but most are love songs which sounds boring I know but his lyrics and vocals are amazing and I find his music so relateable and inspiring. He could honestly turn a nursery rhyme into an amazing, heart felt song, his voice is that good! It's hard to compare him to other artists as I class him as a very fresh and new artist, however his his style reminds me quite a bit of Mumford and Son's, Bon Iver and James Vincent McMorrow. Every Kingdom, as mentioned briefly above is Ben's debut studio album. It's a ten track album and a sixteen track deluxe edition which includes a DVD with the music videos for each song is also available. The album was recorded after the success of two of Ben's singles and he worked on the album alongside India Bourne, who contributed vocals and played percussion and the cello and Chris Bond, who played the drums and bass.
The album was released on the 30th September 2011 and over 100,000 copies have since been sold, resulting in the album recieving a well deserved gold certificate. The album reached the Top 10 Album chart in the UK soon after its release and has been hugely overplayed on Radio One by Zane Lowe, who like me is obviosly a big fan of Ben's! The album can be purchased in either physical (CD) or digital format and it retails for around £5-£10 depending where you purchase it from. I bought my digital copy of the album from iTunes and I paid just £8.99, which I think is a reasonable price considering the album is reasonably new and it's good value in my opinion as it has ten full length tracks and a runtime of over fifty minutes. Individual tracks are priced at just 99 pence on iTunes - a bargain seeing as Ben's music is so addictive that it's easy to hit the replay button and you'll easily get at least twenty listens of each song! The songs on the album are as follows:
Old Pine is the first song on the album. This was actually one of Ben's first singles & it certianly set a high bar for the album! It starts out slow with the guitar being played softly, yet it's really enticing to listen to and I could actually just listen to him play the guitar for hours! We are then gently eased into the depths of the song with gentle backing singers and then Ben's vocals and a faster paced guitar kick in. I absolutely love this song and it's one of my favourites and most played - it's a brilliantly upbeat, feel-good song making it ideal as the opening track. It definitely shows off Ben's guitar talents as well as his versatile vocals. What's great about this song is that it builds and grows at a steady, gentle pace - I love how the instrumentals and vocals progress subtly throughout the song and then errupt into a feel-good merge of skillful guitar strings and a high pitched melody.
The whole 'growing' of the song reflects the lyrics, which I found clever - "We grow, grow, steady as the morning, we grow, grow, older still." Throughout the song, the gorgeous, flawlessly played acoustic guitar with Ben's passionate voice and clearly spoken vocals is incredibly relaxing to listen to, and it's almost like listening to a story! This song is the type that's easy to get lost in; I feel like I'm almost floating along in my own little care free world whenever I hear this.. towards the end though the whole tone of the song changes as the drums and stronger, emotion filled vocals kick in. Lyrics wise, these are flawless. It's easy to tell from listening to the nostalgic lyrics excactly what the song is about - memories of being young, care free and camping on the beach in the summer with childhood friends.
Diamonds is the second song on the album. This has a much darker, serious tone to it than the first song, but it's just as good. Just like the first song on the album, this progresses nicely, starting out with a low pitched, rapid guitar and deepened vocals to reflect Ben's state of mind, and then the tone changes completely as if Ben comes to a realization half way through the song and a surge of happiness and hope suddenly hits him. The way that Ben constantly adjusts his tone and vocal range every minute or so in this song to reflect his mood and emotions is just amazing, it literally gives me goosebumps! Unlike a lot of his other songs, this mixes rock in with the folk and it works well, creating a unique and catchy song.
The stunning fading/echoeing effects, backing singers and the way that you can hear the guitar pick moving across the strings in the background add a lovely twist to the song and make it that bit better. I like how easy this song is to sing along to and it's really fun when singing along to it because of the twists and turns/ups and downs of the vocal range. The chorus is catchy and it's one of those songs that gets me up and dancing. The lyrics although audibly clear aren't the easiest to work out, but in my opinion it's about a couple with a love/hate relationship.
The Wolves is the third song on the album. This is the first song of Ben's that I heard and I immedietly loved it and must of replayed it about ten times in one day - stunning vocals, flawless instrumentals and incredibly catchy! The songs starts with a high pitched, upbeat melody with defiant folk instrumentals. Ben's vocals then kick in and his voice is amazing - raw, with high pitched melodies. His vocals become angrier and reflect frustration and betrayel perfectly while still having that tone to his voice which really makes me sorry for him.
The frustration in his voice merges into angry, low pitched harmonies (almost like a wolf howl) several times which makes the song incredibly powerful and you can feel the tension and emotion. The song has a very catchy chorus and is easy to sing along to. On the album version of the song, unlike the radio version, the very end features an acoustic guitar, echoeing backing singers and Ben, singing 'love' in a variety of vocal styles. This is a really powerful song which progresses well and it's got a very unique feel to it. The lyrics are really meaningful and I especially like the line 'we lost faith in the arms of love' - when I saw Ben play live earlier this year, the audience (myself included!) went absolutely crazy when it came to this point of the song and we all belted out the lyrics with all the strength we had - best feeling ever!
Everything is the fourth song on the album. This is much slower paced than the previous song and it's extremely relaxing with a smooth, reassuringly gentle melodic rythm. The vocals are oozing with love and memories, while the lyrics are easy to understand and they're touching as well as relateable. The song is about change and moving on, while Ben reminises about past memories and toys with the idea of death and wonders what the future will hold, which he states 'starts to get me down'. This is a lovely, gentle song, but it's not got the most optimistic or inspiring lyrics due to the nature of the song. It's a nice song to relax to but because of the low mood of the song and slow, gentle instrumentals it's certianly not a song that I would put on if I was having a party! This isn't my favourite song by far, however I still really like it and never skip it when it plays on shuffle.
Only Love is the fifth song on the album. This is a beautifully put together song about love and appreciation and it crams all the feelings of wanting to be as close to someone as possible into one lovely song. The song shows Ben's vulnerabilities through his vocals and he really puts everything he has into this song. It's a very feel-good song and it is fast paced, with a gentle tone and relateable, emotion filled lyrics. It's one of those songs that can just pick me up instantly and make me feel better, because his voice is so true and gentle as if he is speaking directly to the person listening. The guitar is played nicely and this song is one of my favourites on the album - I listen to it at least five times a day!
The Fear is the sixth song on the album. God, I love this song. Pure beauty - so relaxing, so beautifully pure, meaningful and full of emotion. I honestly think that this is one of the best songs that I've heard in the past five years, it's very original and it's one of those songs that no matter how many times it's replayed, it never gets boring. A lot of songs lose meaning over time, but I've been listening to this daily for over four months and it still makes me feel every bit of emotion, hurt, frustration and betrayel that Ben clearly feels and portrays in this song. The song builds up and progresses nicely starting with a guitar which rapidly increases in pace. Ben's vocals start out reasonably upbeat and the vocals and instrumentals alternate between emotions, eg slow vocals then a burst of vocals. The song is relateable as it covers a subject that everyone is familiar with - death, and the emotions (fear!) that Ben feels towards it. The uncertainty in Ben's voice is weirdly relaxing and this is one of those songs that is like an audible story.
Keep Your Head Up is the seventh song on the album. This is another of my favourites and I can't really fault it! It has a really fresh, euphoric feel to it with inspiring and feel-good, catchy lyrics. The song could be percieved differently and have multiple meanings to different people, however I personally think that the song is about Ben changing as a person for the better - becoming more confident, working towards something, achieving it and not letting anyone change him as a person or get him down. The song feels incredibly inspiring and motivational and I especially love the chorus - "Keep your head up, keep your heart strong. Keep your mind set in your ways." The song is one of my favourites to run to and it almost feels like Ben's speaking to me directly and cheering me on - sounds a bit mental I know but this is a really inspiring song. His vocals are powerful and have a genuine, truthful edge to them - like he's speaking from experience. I love how his voice breaks slightly at certain points in the song as well as it shows real emotion.
Black Flies the eighth song on the album. This is a bit of a drop from the previous song as it's much darker and slower, however I still absolutely love it. This is a break-up song which has incredibly catchy lyrics and stunning, truthful vocals. This is such a powerful, emotion filled song which is so hard to do justice purely with words, it's just one of those raw, gritty 'real' songs.. think an acoustic Mumford and Son's song. The song builds up at a slow but steady pace with the emotion becoming increasingly clear in Ben's voice with each word spoken. Although there's no doubt that this is a pretty gloomy song, I still reccomend it. I love the heavy emphasis on the drums and bass guitar as it creates this surreal, beautiful darkness.
Gracious is the ninth track on the album. In my opinion, this song is about coping with a break-up and coming to terms and accepting that the things that were planned with that person will never happen. The lyrics make me think that the girl broke up with him, as he explains that he will be waiting for her if she ever wants him back. This is a really sweet but sad song and I like how the guitar intensifies as Ben starts to realise that she will never be coming back. The steady guitar and the way that he so effortlessy lets his emotions run free make the song exceptionally good. The melodies are really impressive and I like how the song gradually fades out.
Promise is the tenth and last song on the album. This is yet again an absolutely stunning song with a delicate acoustic guitar and intimate, steady vocals with beautiful backing vocals. The song is absolutely amazing and it's very touching. I especially like the humming as it makes the song even more relaxing. As the song progresses, so do the instrumentals - a beautifully played violin joins the guitar and the vocals become more and more powerful. This is no doubt one of the most soothing, beautiful songs that I have ever heard and it closes the album perfectly.
Overall, this album is simply beautiful. Ben Howard is a very talented guy who has put a huge amount of emotion and effort into thtis album - there genuinely is not one bad song on Every Kingdom. I give this album a well deserved five out of five stars and highly reccomend it!
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Old Pine
3 The Wolves
5 Only Love
6 The Fear
7 Keep Your Head Up
8 Black Flies