Mercury Prize Nominee Ben Howard With Every Kingdom
I’ve never listened to Ben Howard before, at least not intentionally. His music may have been on in the background at some point but never have I paid him much attention.
But now that I’ve listened to this album he has garnered some respect from me, perhaps the most noticeable thing about him is that gruffly edged voice, it’s a quality that can draw a person in. However his songs sound kind of samey. Some of them stand out, but the rest just kind of blend into one musical blur.
However, there are a couple of live songs thrown into the tracklisting which give it a more varied appeal. They give an amazing sense of drama and grittiness that the album was lacking beforehand.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, I should probably start at the beginning of the release.
It begins with a track called Old Pine which starts mildly with an acoustic guitar, however as the time ticks by more is added including some ‘oohs’ which make it melodic. Eventually some vocals come into play and this is the first display of the afore-mentioned gruff voice. They are the most striking thing about this track, which is otherwise unremarkable. It’s not that I don;t like it, just that it all seems rather calm and it’s easy to get bored of it, which might put a person off of the rest of the album. Yet, the end blows this conclusion out of the water, it’s lively and catchy and is utterly different from the beginning. It’s almost as if it’s a different song.
Now, Diamonds is also a slow burner, except this time it has a drama to it, an atmosphere that the first track lacked. The song is a better display of how amazing Howard’s voice is. This track is everything the first isn’t. You know when, for some inexplicable reason, you spirit lifts to a piece of music and you just feel happier and you wish you knew the track better so you can fully enjoy it by singing and doing some sort of dance that no one can really name, well this song has that effect.
Then there’s The Wolves. I know that this is beginning to sound like a track-by-track analysis but it just goes to show that after the disappointing opener it gets a lot better. The Wolves is so addictive it should be classified as a drug. It’s catchy and there’s a lot more emotion in those gruff vocals than there has been in the two previous songs. It’s another one that you wish you could sing and dance to. You can lose yourself in this track.
After that energy boost, though, there comes a lull. Whether or not you like slow songs can be luck of the draw, some of them are amazing and some of them are just dreary and unfortunately the slow songs on Every Kingdom tend to be in the latter category. Then The Fear comes along and recuperates that energy, it just goes round picking up the tatters that were left behind in the lull and stitching them back together. It’s a great song and one of those that is instantly recognisable.
But after this amazing song the samey feel comes into it. Everything begins to sound similar, well really it’s just the songs that aren’t so good that sound alike. But it gets tedious after a while. Occasionally there’s a refreshing track out there but for the most part it just doesn’t live up to the awesome that came before.
Overall this is an okay release but there’s a point where it becomes slightly dull. It’s not outstanding but if you’re in the right mood it might be a good album to have in your collection.