11 Songs, 54 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Although Ben Howard often gets compared to Nick Drake or John Martyn, the English singer/songwriter was raised on his parents’ Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell records. Howard’s debut album, Every Kingdom, opens with the lilting, acoustic-based “Old Pine." Its intro, though, has much in common with Pink Floyd’s “Goodbye Blue Sky,” with descending chords and haunting “oohs” in the verses. Upon closer listen, Howard’s quivering, nasal-toned timbre recalls a young Devendra Banhart, sans surreal lyrics. “The Wolves” blends Banhart’s falsetto warble with the shaky vocal restraint of early Conor Oberst recordings. Toward the bridge, Howard digs deep into the grittier aspects of his natural tenor and we get a sense of his own style rising above his immediate influences. The more uptempo “Keep Your Head Up” works its timeless tunesmith magic best upon repeated listens. Over pedaling rhythms and subtly catchy melodies, Howard unleashes his scratchy voice, which segues into subtly layered gang vocals during the chorus.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Although Ben Howard often gets compared to Nick Drake or John Martyn, the English singer/songwriter was raised on his parents’ Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell records. Howard’s debut album, Every Kingdom, opens with the lilting, acoustic-based “Old Pine." Its intro, though, has much in common with Pink Floyd’s “Goodbye Blue Sky,” with descending chords and haunting “oohs” in the verses. Upon closer listen, Howard’s quivering, nasal-toned timbre recalls a young Devendra Banhart, sans surreal lyrics. “The Wolves” blends Banhart’s falsetto warble with the shaky vocal restraint of early Conor Oberst recordings. Toward the bridge, Howard digs deep into the grittier aspects of his natural tenor and we get a sense of his own style rising above his immediate influences. The more uptempo “Keep Your Head Up” works its timeless tunesmith magic best upon repeated listens. Over pedaling rhythms and subtly catchy melodies, Howard unleashes his scratchy voice, which segues into subtly layered gang vocals during the chorus.

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About Ben Howard

A mercurial British singer/songwriter who rose to prominence on the basis of his 2011 LP, Every Kingdom, Ben Howard was born in London in 1987, growing up in South Devon, where his mother's collection of folk records helped instill a love for Joni Mitchell, Donovan, and Richie Havens. Howard also developed an interest in surfing, briefly moving to Newquay, the surf capital of the U.K., where he received class credit for working at a surfing magazine. Howard dropped out of school six months shy of graduation, though, convinced by the surf community's enthusiastic response to his music -- which, despite its acoustic folk sound and beachy vibe, sounded more like John Martyn than Jack Johnson -- that he should ditch the newsroom and focus on songwriting.

The surf community proved to be a big stepping stone for Howard, who found himself playing to packed audiences long before his music spread beyond the U.K. beaches. A European tour with Xavier Rudd helped him build a wider audience in late 2008, as did the release of EPs like These Waters and Old Pine. By the time Howard finished recording his full-length debut, Every Kingdom, in 2011, he'd signed a major-label deal with Island Records (the same label that once released music by John Martyn) and graduated to headliner status, thanks to growing fan bases in England, Germany, France, and Holland. Every Kingdom proved to be a breakout release in the U.K., earning Howard a Mercury Prize nomination and two BRIT Awards for British Breakthrough Act and British Solo Male Artist, and eventually going platinum.

For his much anticipated sophomore set, I Forget Where We Were, he took a somewhat more electric approach and was rewarded with strong reviews and sales; it debuted at number one on the U.K. charts. In the spring of 2017, Howard took part in a collaborative project alongside several other artists including Mickey Smith and India Bourne. The mysterious sextet, called A Blaze of Feather, began appearing at high-profile U.K. festivals throughout the year, releasing a self-titled full-length a few months later. The year 2018 began with the announcement of Howard's impending third LP, Noonday Dream, which he introduced with the dreamy seven-minute single "A Boat to an Island on the Wall." ~ Andrew Leahey

HOMETOWN
London, England
BORN
April 24, 1987

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