Dr. Perry Alexander

The University of Kansas

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Is It? - Ben Howard

Ben Howard is a new artist to me that hits a sweet spot near experimental pop and singer songwriter. Dreamy pop sounds that remind me immediately of José González who I spotted last year. Ben Howard leans less towards folk and more towards pop and experimental, although that turn seems recent. The singing voices are wonderfully similar. Smooth, silky, etherial.

Is It? is Howard’s latest and it is amazing, sophisticated pop music. Hard to decide which tracks to describe, so I’ll start with the opener, Couldn’t Make It Up. All the elements of the album are there. Lots of effects and synths, but definitely the poppiest song on the album. Likely a radio hit back in the 90s. Don’t stop here.

Walking Backwards picks up where Couldn’t Make It Up with just a bit more edge. The more experimental side of Howard begins to emerge and keeps coming through Days of Lantana and Moonraker, one of my favorites.

Interim of Sense combines some groovy guitar effects with Howard’s voice to create one of the more outside songs on the album.

Spirit is particularly compelling with a somewhat dissonant opening using what sounds like a cello with heavy effects and a kick drum all over the place, but not quite on the beat. The result is far more amazing than I make it sound. If you listen to one of Howard’s songs, this is the one.

I will find this on vinyl. It really is a fine album from top to bottom that struck me from first listen. Difficult to imagine a better album so far this year.