Ben Howard
Is It?


4.5
superb

Review

by bigbruddahbuddha USER (4 Reviews)
December 13th, 2023 | 9 replies


Release Date: 06/16/2023 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Is It? is a welcome return to form for Ben Howard.

While the beauty on, say, Every Kingdom is more immediate, Is It? requires both dedication and time to reveal itself. Instead of showing you the answers directly, Ben asks you to empathize with his vulnerabilities and lived experiences. This can be encapsulated through the murmuring that declares “I am making a world for you//In the interim of sense.”

It is without question that this man has been through a lot recently, suffering two transient ischemic attacks; this album isn’t just a cerebral answer to his suffering but a celebration of his creative capacity as a human being. We’re here on his journey, and he is with us. Even if that is us walking backwards at times.

There is a notable evolution that takes place on Ben’s fifth LP. A shift towards electronica was heard first on Collections from the Whiteout (with the use of the nifty Korg Volca Beats) and this transition towards full-blown folktronica is completed on Is It? with confidence and vigour. The electronic beeps and bleeps can be discordant initially, and may put some off, like fireflies flickering around your personal space. But when the flighting harmonies have been established, to my ear, the electronics fit in as they are supposed to, the best example is on Life In My Time. Perfectly imperfect for the occasion, they add a colour just not possible on more straightforward folk records. Because this isn’t Ben trying to create in line with tradition, this is Ben quietly pushing the realms of possibility, and accepting the results as they are.

My favourite tracks are the soothing Days of Lantana and the rich Moonraker. Among the machinated drumbeats, the bassline in Days of Lantana grounds you, there isn’t any place you’d rather be. When things in life are moving at pace, Moonraker is a balm that softens the pace of reality. I ease into Ben’s reassuring voice and sigh in relief that we can take this time slowly.

There’s a reason this review comes late. Listening to "Is It?" is like tending to a garden in early spring. At first, you see the buds tightly closed, and they remain that way stubbornly, but as you immerse yourself, each track eventually unfolds under the “faint June shine” like a delicate flower, revealing soft fragrances that were hidden within. So, I’ve been busy gardening and smelling fragrances of these little plants, just doing my thing, with Ben at hand.


user ratings (111)
3.7
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
DadKungFu
Staff Reviewer
December 13th 2023


5080 Comments


Keep seeing your name on lists and I always figured you'd have more reviews. This one is short, sweet and to the point. Keep writing please!

bighubbabuddha
December 13th 2023


1043 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks KungFu, appreciate the kind comment, I plan on writing more

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
December 14th 2023


32073 Comments


"There’s a reason this review comes late. Listening to "XXX album" is like tending to a garden in early spring. "

Definitely borrowing this line for my reviews from now on. Good stuff hubba. About to revisit this album this afternoon.

hamid95
December 14th 2023


1211 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

great review, one of my fav records this year

bighubbabuddha
December 14th 2023


1043 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks Dewinged and Hamid. It's one of my faves this year too

onionbubs
December 14th 2023


21504 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

gonna have to give this another shot today



days of lantana is fuckin amazing

johnnyblaze
December 14th 2023


3408 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

nice review



noticed i havent rated this yet and it's probably for the same reason this review comes so late

bighubbabuddha
December 14th 2023


1043 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

thanks johnnyblaze

lucazade22
December 14th 2023


806 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Days of Lantana is so good



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