Ben Howard
Noonday Dream


5.0
classic

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
June 5th, 2018 | 378 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A collage of moments both fleeting and everlasting

Everything about the way that Noonday Dream visually represents itself is accurate. The dusty, barren artwork parallels its sense of isolation, while the title depicts the kind of nomadic drifts that characterize each song. On the heels of two vastly successful albums – Every Kingdom and I Forget Where We Were – this record is notably humble. The anthemic qualities of Ben Howard’s last effort have been willingly abandoned in favor of more muted concepts…like waves lapping up against a boat, distant conversations, or a flag flapping steadily in the wind as a storm moves in. Noonday Dream is an atmospheric experience that recalls a variety of moments in nature – from the secluded and serene to the harsh and unforgiving. It’s a beautiful progression for Howard, and one that etches his name even higher up on the artistic totem pole.

“It’s so peaceful here, no one to fuck it up”, Howard quietly mutters on the closing ‘Murmurations’, before stamping the final verse with, “I could see through miles, miles.” It feels like he is slowly being swept up into the ocean – fading, fading, until it sounds like his voice has vanished into the surrounding air. The drums ramp up just ever so slightly, and the outro becomes awash in this warm, acoustic reverb until there is nothing but silence. As an ending, it’s perfect. However, it’s even more indicative of Noonday Dream as a whole – a record that tends to shrink inward, fade, or retreat more than it bursts, peaks, or does anything that could be considered showy. Even at its most agitated – the cutting, electric riffs in the closing minutes of ‘A Boat to an Island on the Wall’ – the record seems to arrive at its moments in a state of acceptance and understanding. At its warmest, the album is melodic and vaguely romantic, like the echoed warbling on ‘Towing the Line’ can attest to: “Love is in the early mornings / In the shadows under the trees... Down here I crow for you / You crow for me.” Noonday Dream unfurls like its title suggests, deftly yet unpredictably weaving between all things earthly and ethereal.

Despite the way that Noonday Dream advances – a steady stream of subconscious impulses – it’s hardly translucent. The majority of the album feels planted in the Earth, grounded in reality. Every note trickles off Howard’s fingertips from his acoustic guitar, each drum beat is like a heavy boot landing on a dirt-covered rock, kicking dust up into the summer heat. While it occasionally looks to the stars, pondering questions of time (“Now, is there a now?”/ “Forever, such a beautiful thing”) and mortality (the eerie ‘Someone in The Doorway’), these are the ruminations of a man sitting on a grassy hill, not jettisoning off into space. That makes this record no less beautiful though, and if anything makes it more real. The pain and darkness confronted on Noonday Dream are all too relatable (“I am not ready to die”…“Why are we all so miserable?Well, that's right! Nobody ever comes back…”), which places it starkly at the forefront of Howard’s lyrical accomplishments as well.

If Howard’s third album suffers anything, it’s withdrawal from the tuneful inclinations that made I Forget Where We Were such an accessible, widely celebrated work. Noonday Dream is worth celebrating in a different sense. It’s Ben Howard doubling down on ambiance, creating a collage of moments both fleeting and everlasting while choosing the art of the craft over the simplest path to accolades. It may take more time to appreciate, but it’s a masterclass of songwriting that will likely dictate the future direction of his music.



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user ratings (147)
Chart.
4
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Moderator
June 5th 2018


28120 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

A Boat to an Island on the Wall:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIJqnAXh060



Murmurations:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ge8fE82XsDg



This is a grower. So much great music has been coming out these last few weeks.

Digging: mewithoutYou - [Untitled]

FreddieDelaney31
June 5th 2018


4813 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Album is truly stunning

Digging: Daughters - You Won't Get What You Want

Dewinged
June 5th 2018


11306 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great review Sowing. Howard has come a long way from Every Kingdom.

Digging: Ancestors - Suspended in Reflections

schoonda
June 5th 2018


1341 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great writeup Sowing. The album is fantastic, can't wait to see how these go down live.

schoonda
June 5th 2018


1341 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Agreed dewi, Every Kingdom really doesn't do much for me these days

TheFantasticDangler
June 5th 2018


1990 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Album rules. The Defeat is absolutely incredible. Can get lost in the atmosphere and ambience and damn theres some amazing guitar tones on here.

Dewinged
June 5th 2018


11306 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

And I bet there would still be crazy teens screaming "Play Only Love!!" in this album's tour (If he tours at all because he ended up pretty burnt out in the last one because of that).

Gyromania
June 5th 2018


25902 Comments


Only heard the opener. Hope the rest is as good

schoonda
June 5th 2018


1341 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Defeat my fave too but it's all really good shit. Nica libres is up there too

Dewinged
June 5th 2018


11306 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

That guitar at the end of "A Boat..." is... aaaaaaahhh

TheFantasticDangler
June 5th 2018


1990 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yupp, not a weak track on here, but If I had to pick A Boat pt 2 for sure.

BlushfulHippocrene
Contributing Reviewer
June 5th 2018


2559 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Fantastic review. I think I agree. All these little phrases and sounds that pop in and out of the mix that lend themselves to something so ethereal and seemingly fleeting. Yet the backdrops themselves are so rich and well-conceived. IFWWW sounded like drowning to me, somewhere at the bottom of the sea; this feels like floating, centimetres above the dirt.

Digging: Brennan Savage and Fish Narc - Drowning

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
June 5th 2018


40664 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

great review



nice album but the shorter songs (There's Your Man most frustratingly) feel really out of place and obstinate on here and I really don't care for them



Nice Libres and both halves of Boat are brilliant

Digging: St. Vincent - MassEducation

theBoneyKing
June 5th 2018


15309 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Lovey review Sowing. Looking forward to hearing this - I’ve been needing some good ol’-fashioned indie folk.

Digging: Advance Base - Animal Companionship

TheFantasticDangler
June 6th 2018


1990 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

this album is so cohesive and its flow is honestly one of the reasons I like it so much... how you could find tracks out of place is beyond me. the shortest song, towing the line, is wonderful... but to each their own

zakalwe
June 6th 2018


25796 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

This has really weaved a spell on me. I’ve found Howard to be a typical product of the times. Superficial, generic, lacking that certain something.

This album though is mesmerising, origional and leaves a mark on the soul. I think it maybe a 5.

DoofusWainwright
June 6th 2018


20003 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

'I think it maybe a 5'



I'm slowly starting to realise it's an AOTY contender

zakalwe
June 6th 2018


25796 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

On the first few listens after the opening 4 songs it does all seem to mash into one. Same repeated intonation, a delicate strum here, a lightweight melody there but give it time and it all opens up into an absolute beaut.

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
June 6th 2018


40664 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

cohesive to a fault

SowingSeason
Moderator
June 6th 2018


28120 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thank you all of you -- truly too kind.

With regard to the shorter tracks, I don't think that they are out of place. Everything blends together here, which if anything lends credence to Rowan's second comment over his first. I could definitely see someone finding this homogenous and uninteresting if they don't like the album's premise. I just happen to enjoy the atmosphere he's crafted here, even though it can be a little plain at times.



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