After a four year silence after the release of his critically acclaimed album, ‘I Forget Where We Were’ there was a part of me that we’d maybe never heard hear another full length from Ben. A suspicion only made more possible when he retreated to the back of the stage playing shows and releasing an album with ‘A Blaze of Feather’ last year, the project of his touring bass player, Mickey Smith.
However, just as many of us were about to lose hope Ben is back with Noonday Dream. An artist who proved his resentment of expectation by blowing us away with a complete shift in sound from poppy folk balladeer in 2011 to a glitched out, brooding troubadour in 2014. Noonday Dream challenges our expectations of Ben even further and shows his true knack for re-invention. I Forget Where We Were was an extremely dark and emotional listen. Noonday Dream is just as introspective as we expect, but it is safe to say that this record comes from a much different place.
The album opens with Nica Libres at Dusk, the third single from the record. A bouncing and atmospheric opener undeniably showcases a much more positive side to Howard that we haven’t seen for a while. Lyrically, the song sees Ben focusing on the future and no longer letting the past trap or confine him, welcoming a new era of his life. The song serves as at an absolutely perfect song to set the mode of the album. Once again Ben Howard seems to be shedding worries and anxieties on the fourth track What The Moon Does when he sings ‘most things now make me smile’. The track serves as an early highlight for the album with its delayed thumping electric guitar and beautiful vocal delivery. Musically, Noonday’s Dream is a departure in sound. While the guitars are still heavily delayed like on the last record, the playing is much more delicate and ben’s vocal delivery at times borders on spoken word.
Tracks like Someone in The Doorway and The Defeat channel Radiohead with Phillip-Selway inspired drumming, fantastic use of electronics and guitar interplay. The cohen-esque subtle stylings of tracks like Towing the Line are fantastic as well as a track like There’s Your Man which I hear a lot of late-70’s John Martyn influence within. While at times the flow of the album isn’t as smooth and concise as his previous efforts, and the inclusion of tracks like All Down the Mines leave you wanting more. Noonday Dream is another bold and strong statement from one of the UK’s finest songwriters.