I learned about Ben Howard at a good time, when one of my favourite genres – chilled, hipster singer-songwriter stuff – was starting to wear a little thin.
Having played Bon Iver, Iron and Wine, Monsters of Folk and Sufjan Stevens to death, I needed a new soundtrack for those times I’m feeling wistful and melancholic.
Ben Howard fits the bill perfectly, his first album, Every Kingdom, was a masterful debut, winning him Mercury Prize nominations and Brit Awards. His second, I Forget Where We Were, was more sonically daring than its predecessor if not as solid. On Noonday Dream, his third album, he takes the experimentation hinted at on his second release to a higher level and delivers a better finished product in the process.
This record does bask in a self-indulgence that would make Sufjan Stevens himself, with his lengthy 25-minute-spanning songs, proud. There’s a lot of musical meandering, the songs washing over the listener and taking their time to reach a peak. Except for in one or two cases, it works.
This is an album that I would describe as the opposite of focussed, but the blurred edges seem deliberate and even when it’s a bit of a mess, it’s a very beautiful one. It’s a musical soup, but a delicious one.
Noonday Dream is an album you can get lost in, and I don’t want to be found any time soon.