• Benjamin O'Connor

Ben Howard - 'Collections from the Whiteout'

Updated: Apr 13

A confusing trip through melodic guitars and unusual drum loops.

Ben Howard’s new album is not like any other he has previously released. I’ve found this with his previous projects, too. Each album has its own vibe – Every Kingdom is beachy happiness, I Forget Where We Were is sad, mellowness, Noonday Dream is that 6pm moodiness, and, Collections from the Whiteout, well, I’m not too sure.

Looking at the album as a whole, it feels like a very pieced together project that somehow also feels like one continuous body of work. Each song has that similar grainy, distorted, sort of confusing acoustic feel to it. But this is exactly it: it’s confusing but in a beautiful way. There’s no clear underlying theme in the lyrical content, something Ben has himself stated in interviews. A number of the songs reference news headlines from the past. Notably ‘The Strange Last Flight of Richard Russel’ refers to a man who stole an aeroplane in 2018 to then crash it and commit suicide. I feel as though you can lose yourself in the individual stories and sounds of the album and mentally visit the unique places Ben was writing from.

The vocals throughout the project are good, they’re safe. I feel as though the main thing here are the instrumentals underneath. The album, in my opinion, is led by the peculiar noises behind the vocals, and those are what your ears are drawn to. This to me is true for each song except ‘Rookery’, which is a bareboned, stripped back, poetic song about Ben shooting down a rookery (a group of birds). ‘Sage That She Was Burning’ follows my argument, having one of the most unusual, but cool, looping sounds I have ever heard. It works, I don’t know how it does, but it does. On top of the distorted to another planet sound, Ben’s soft vocals provide that satisfying contrast to keep things interesting.

This album is like no other music we are currently hearing, and I truly believe Ben Howard is a genius amongst our current generation of artists. I strongly suggest you stream it below if you haven’t already.