Album Review: Ben Howard – Noonday Dream

Ben Howard has an uncanny ability to create an incredibly special, intimate experience for his listeners, both live and through his albums. It’s no surprise he has amassed a universal, loyal following over the years, as his heartbreaking yet healing music always seems to resonate deeply with our souls. This highly-anticipated new album, Noonday Dream, certainly feels like a dream with its ethereal tracks, and to hear how Ben has also evolved as a producer highlights the personal and creative investment he has in his music – the result is his best work to date, an ambient-folk record that feels much more experimental and celestial than his previous.

Noonday Dream is reminiscent of The Burgh Island EP released in 2012, in that there is a depth of sadness sonically, though this time Ben takes us on an atmospheric ride with meticulously textured tracks. Nica Libres At Dusk is a gorgeous opening to the album, warming us up for more dreamy tracks ahead. It’s everything you would want and expect from Ben Howard – a peaceful, emotive serenade we can listen to forever. Towing The Line is melodically one of the most beautiful songs on the album. Sung slowly, carefully, and softly, it’s a soothing and tender lullaby.

The beginning of A Boat To An Island On The Wall sounds like the backdrop of a sci-fi movie. With grim vocals throughout, the song eventually emerges instrumentally with an alternative edge. What The Moon Does is another transporting, ambient track that represents the album quite well in terms of its musical direction. The electric guitar is weaved in elegantly and masterfully here as well as in Someone In The Doorway, one of the trademarks of a great Ben Howard song. A Boat To An Island Part II/Agatha’s Song creates a meditative atmosphere, an abstract song which doesn’t compromise on a beautiful harmony. There’s Your Man is the only groovy tune in the mix, with the record ending on Murmurations, another experimental gem that while takes a moment to settle into considering the discordant noises, builds up to a steady percussion.

Navigating this album is an adventure that showcases Ben’s growth way beyond songwriting, and more so as a composer. While he’s surely folk-inspired, Ben Howard continues to blaze his own path as a musician and we couldn’t be more lucky to be on the receiving end of his creations.

Julia Kwan