If Ben Howard
has been your go-to since 2011's Every Kingdom,
you may be wondering how to diversify your musical taste while satisfying that need to cry in the shower. It's okay, we all know you do it and we do, too. There are quite a few bands out there that make music perfect for sad things like: breakups, the existence of Meghan Trainor
, the current state of the U.S. and, of course, the fact that you will probably never meet Beyonce
. If you just need a good cry but you've exhausted Ben Howard's discography, here are nine other bands that sound just like him.
1. The Paper Kites
The Paper Kites are an indie folk-rock band based out of Australia and, while they have been continually releasing music since 2012, their oldest stuff is their most Ben Howard-y sound (and probably their best-known work). You've probably heard "Bloom" or "Paint" before on the soundtrack to some sad rom com or else your dentist's office waiting room, but they are both lovely, folky, and ethereal, if that's what Ben Howard means to you, anyway.
: "Bloom", "Paint", "On The Train Ride Home"
2. Sun Kil Moon
Ohio-born-and-raised folk artist Mark Kozelek originally belonged to the band the Red House Painters before eventually forming Sun Kil Moon and releasing the critically acclaimed LP Benji that has quite literally some of the saddest songs you will ever hear. They're all extremely sparse, mainly just Kozelek's gravelly, ambiguously accented voice and his guitar, but it's the lyrics that really getcha- like the chorus to "Carissa" that goes "Carissa was only 35 / nobody just wakes up, takes out their trash and dies" in detailing the tragic freak death of his second cousin. You're welcome.
: "Carissa", "I Know It's Pathetic But That Was the Best Night of My Life", "I Can't Live Without My Mother's Love"
3. Benjamin Francis Leftwich
This British singer-songwriter sings in a hoarse whisper about traveling and discovering himself against a backdrop of frequently twinkling guitar melodies that sound as though they're spun out of sugar. Plus, he's not quite as sad. He only has two full-lengths out to stream right now but has been steadily releasing singles since 2016 to give you a good dose of that depressing indie folk music you've been craving.
"Atlas Hands", "Shine", "Because of Toledo"
4. Jose Gonzalez
This Swedish-born singer-songwriter has a few songs out that you have definitely heard before in a cafe while you were waiting for your double-shot no-foam latte and wondered, "is this Ben Howard? It doesn't sound like Ben Howard, but is it?" No, it's not Ben Howard, but the haunting, whispered vocals and features on sad-yet-uplifting independent films such as The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
almost could be.
: "Heartbeats", "Crosses", "Leaf off / The Cave"
5. Gregory Alan Isakov
While Isakov has been pretty quiet lately in terms of releasing indie folk goodies (he recently released a set of songs played in collaboration with his hometown Colorado Symphony Orchestra) but his second and third records, This Empty Northern Hemisphere
and The Weatherman
were both widely received and have gathered millions of Spotify streams. His lyrics and ability to create wide, sweeping soundscapes with significant classical influence are prolific.
: "Amsterdam", "Second Chances", "Idaho"
6. City and Colour
City and Colour are a folk-rock band born out of the Canadian post-punk project Alexisonfire. For the most part they make clear-as-a-bell acoustic tunes that glorify pastoral topics like love and nature (mostly love) and might not make you cry but might get you close. Also watch our session with them here
: "Northern Wind", "Hello, I'm in Delaware", "The Girl"
7. Iron & Wine
Sam Beam is southern folk-rocker that has made a name for himself not just from the seamless, Johnny Cash-like records he put out at the beginning of his career, but the nearly electronic, forward-looking albums he has produced in the last couple, closer to the likes of M. Ward or Shakey Graves than Townes Van Zandt. His plaintive tunes span a range from homespun folk that sounds like it was recorded in Simon & Garfunkel's basement to electronic songs that pull out the synths but never leave the guitar behind. Basically, if you haven't been listening to Iron & Wine from The Creek Drank the Cradle
through Beast Epic
then you must hate good music, fun and probably chocolate, too.
: "Fly Over the Mountain", "The Trapeze Artist", "The Sea and The Rhythm"
8. Adrianne Lenker
Adrianne Lenker is the frontperson of the band Big Thief
, who are great but sound very little like Ben Howard, and had a weird and traumatic childhood being born into a cult to very young parents and subsequently leaving the cult and traveling around the Midwestern United States with her musician father. Her solo stuff is all folk music and while Big Thief is really taking off these days, she's mostly stopped releasing solo music. Sparse, filled with lulling piano and Lenker's haunting, melodic vocals, her solo work will put you right inside her life.
: "Indiana", "I Still Hear You", "Steamboat"
9. Keaton Henson
Keaton Henson is a London-based indie-folk artist and kind of a weirdo. His songs are sung in mostly falsetto with heartbreakingly poetic lyrics - when you discover he's an illustrator and poet separate from writing song lyrics, it's utterly unsurprising. He's also literally a hermit- he's an intensely private person and most of the interviews he has given were conducted from the far reaches of his bedroom via email and intense stage fright has mostly prevented him from touring in front of large audiences. His cult following, though, is quite serious - between unusual, spare melodies and heart-wrenching lyrics, he turns one man and his guitar into a whole different universe.
: "You Don't Know How Lucky You Are", "Small Hands", "Sweetheart, What Have You Done To Us?"