Ben Howard
I Forget Where We Were



by humblerodent USER (29 Reviews)
October 21st, 2014 | 2 replies

Release Date: 2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: But not who we are

Generally, judging a book, or rather an album, by its cover doesn’t tell you much about its contents. But in this case, the cover of Ben Howard’s sophomore release “I Forget Where We Were” speaks volumes. His 2011 debut, “Every Kingdom,” was a bright and colorful indie rock affair with a beautiful blue-green cover to match its mood.

This time around, the album art is dark and somber: a simple grayscale image of Howard’s face, half in shadow. And the music has changed just as much as the art.

“I Forget Where We Were” is not an uplifting album. Howard stated in an interview with the London Evening Standard that a main theme of the album is anxiety, and it shows. Whereas “Every Kingdom” conveyed mainly inspiring messages through upbeat music, “I Forget Where We Where” is filled with angst and a subtle, downtempo sound.

This is more the soundtrack of a rainy day than of a sunshine-drenched stroll through the park. Most tracks are five minutes or longer and build slowly, adding layer after layer as Howard mournfully sings about losing loved ones and the state of the world.

The opening track, “Small Things,” is composed of echoed guitar strums and muted drums while Howard asks, “Has the world gone mad? Or is it me? / Is it all so very bad? I can’t see.” Meanwhile, the lead single, “End of the Affair,” clocks in at nearly eight minutes and has Howard lamenting “Living without her, living at all / Seems to slow me down” while guitars are quietly plucked in the background. It’s not until around the five-minute mark that the song picks up; Howard infuses the latter half of the track with anger and impassioned guitar work. With the exception of one or two tracks, nearly all the songs on “I Forget Where We Were” follow this formula. Yet through a combination of creativity, talent, and sheer resolve, Howard was able to prevent this album from being a snoozefest.

While it’s true the different sound and subdued mood of “I Forget Where We Were” will likely alienate vast swathes of Howard’s fan base, the album is a huge leap forward for the troubled artist. It shows that he is more than just a one-trick pony who churns out generic -- although superbly executed -- indie rock. “I Forgot Where We Were” reveals Howard is capable of executing complex song structures that grow and evolve the more the listener pays attention. The album may not be easy to unpack, but if the listener is willing to spend some time with this record, they will be well rewarded.

The verdict: Swapping bright and colorful for dark and muted, Ben Howard manages to create a more complex listen that is worth investing in.

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user ratings (497)
other reviews of this album
Dan H. EMERITUS (4.5)
Has the world gone mad, or is it me?...

Rowan5215 STAFF (4.5)
I may be troubled, but I'm gracious in defeat....

UnderTheNorthernScar (4)
Living without her, living at all, seems to slow me down...

Comments:Add a Comment 
October 21st 2014


Album Rating: 4.5

Originally published by The Daily of the University of Washington:

So different than his first release, but still familiar, loved it.

December 19th 2014


Album Rating: 4.5

Excellent, this is my favorite review of the album on this site. I love it, you're very right about the album being hard to unpack, but the opener and lead single kept me coming back. So much power behind the words in the verses of the lead single, it truly does give me chills.

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