By Ben Howard
Emerging from the serene waters of the West Country, Ben Howard's 'Every Kingdom' produces a collection of acoustic arrangements and harmonies that embody the singer's natural surroundings and experiences, which gives Howard a distinctive edge against other singer/songwriters of the moment.
With high support and influence from the surf community, Howard's distinct sound captures this in the first few cords of opener 'Old Pine'. Accompanied by his raw vocals 'Old Pine' sets the sound of the album as a harmonious, personal record. Its reflective lyrics set the personalised atmosphere of this debut which is a constant theme throughout.
'Diamonds' follows with a chilling opening that takes a while to get going, but once the chorus kicks in, Howard's and the backing vocals produce a pleasant sound which is repeated throughout and accompanied by a few vocal 'oh-uhs' that continue into the opening of previous single 'Wolves' the song which arguably got Howard heard. It's upbeat, acoustic sound creates an appealing listen with the simplicity of the repetition of the lyrics; '...where've you been hiding lately?' and Howard's well perfected howling creating a spontaneous natural sound.
Fourth track 'Everything,' produces a gem of a song. The harmonious sound of the guitar truly compliments Howard's honest, sublime lyrics in addition to emphasising his musical ability due to the clear sounds of his raw vocals and distinct guitar playing. This is also apparent on 'Only Love' a soft love song that again is exemplified by Howard's recognisable vocals. Although at this point half way through the album, Howard's arrangement seems quite unvaried, 'The Fear' and new single 'Keep your head up' provide a more buoyant sound. Howard's use of lyrical repetition proves beneficial as 'Keep your head up' creates a personalised insight into Howard's world with tempo changes that truly capture Howard's vocal range.
Natural imagery is a constant theme in Howard's music, 'Black flies' highlights this through Howard's metaphors; 'you were the ocean, when I was a stone' the combination of the cello and symbols on this track create an almost oceanic sound producing an appealing sound. This continues on to 'Gracious' an alluring song that continues to define Howard's sound.
Concluding, 'Promise,' produces a beautiful ending to an atmospheric debut. The rawness of Howard's vocals on this track creates a powerful sound accompanied by the gentle, whispering backing vocals. But it is the assistance of the cello with its tender vibrations that steals the song.
Chilling and alluring, Ben Howard's 'Every Kingdom' is an album full of promise.