TUESDAY, APRIL 24, 2012 |
Posted by: Carianne Hixson
Folk music can be offered to us in many forms-- it can host wailing vocals and inaudible lyrics, or it can be subtle and articulate. Regardless of how it's presented, the ultimate goal is oral transmission of one's particular story in an effort to bring people together. In this case, Ben Howard is reeling fans in, in delicate fashion. His debut album Every Kingdom was released back in October in his home country England and is now being re-released here in the US. Ben's influences range from Bob Dylan to Joni Mitchel but his music captures (whether intentional or not) the sounds of Jack Johnson, Simon & Garfunkel, and Donovan all at once.
At first listen, the album might seem tweenish and unsettling to early era folk fanatics but Ben's songs are introverted and focus less on abstract representations of society and more on personal experiences with anxiety and love. The sometimes depressing sentiment of certain songs is usually counteracted by the folky guitar riffs that ascend and fall sequentially around poetic lyrics. His happier songs dwell fittingly in that same environment. Still, Howard's falsetto vocals have an almost haunting quality to them, making it impossible to not feel his pain when he is willing to unveil it for us.
The albums seventh track "Keep Your Head Up" soars because it takes each of his modes of writing (about nature, angst and optimism) and blends them perfectly into one climactic story of a song-- and the story is well written. Howard has a brilliant way of expressing emotions that could easily come off as cliche and makes them him own. Lyrics like "I've cut my mind on second best/ or the scars that come with the greenness" showcase that intelligence and uniqueness. The eighth track "Black Flies" exudes his consistenly nature-driven style of writing where he creates metaphors for life out of beautiful, earthy scenery.
Every Kingdom is a rare find. Ben Howard's acute writing skills and evocative vocals are brought to life by some awe-inspiring instrumentation-- something you don't often find in a debut album. Ben is both a poet and a musician. He exudes the innocence of folk while refraining from making offensive statements-- a sign of maturity and wisdom. It's no wonder he's practically a god in the United Kingdom, maybe soon he'll be that in every kingdom.