When I first heard Ben Howard's 2011 debut Every Kingdom, I dubbed him the "British Jack Johnson." Even then, it wasn't really a very good description. Ben Howard's debut was another indie, melancholy with a good hook and an acoustic guitar, albeit a good one (Every Kingdom was rather critically aclaimed). I fell in love with Howard's unassuming, slow building, and earnest acoustics, but it wasn't enough to make him a hit commercially, I'm not sure if second album I Forget Where We Were is either, but it is a much more unique, and daring undertaking.
Although only 10 tracks, this album feels long, in a good way. Howard takes his time, sprawling each song out across an average of 5 minute running time (with the exception of two tracks), building a dark, intoxicating sound. I Forget Where We Were experiments with a more electronic, vintage rock sound, than the acoustics of its predecessor. Synth guitar echoes in an empty space, in the opening Small Things. Subtle harmonies, and subdued percussion accompany throughout the album, but Howard relies heavily on electric guitar and synth, reminiscing artists like Nick Drake and Tim Buckley. Howard doesn't alienate his old fans, and the acoustics are still there in tracks like In Dreams, She Treats Me Well, and the gorgeous End of the Affair, but there is an urgency now that wasn't present in Every Kingdom.
I Forget Where We Were isn't a great stretch for Ben Howard, who seems more interested in developing his sound naturally, than making huge sales or appealing to a larger audience, but this is part of what makes him so endearing to his fans. I Forget Where We Were is a much more sophisticated undertaking, but it's still the Ben Howard we know and love.