Striking the distance between the strange and the curious, Collections from the Whiteout draws everlasting collaborations – but holds its own with Howard still prevalent as the inventive singer-songwriter.
If I told you that Aaron Dessner of The National had a major hand in producing and spinning his thoughts into Howard’s fourth successive album, you’d instantly understand it’s thought-process. A simply inventive piece of studio production, it merely avoids the dooming darkness that we saw on predecessors Noonday Dream and I Forget Where We Were, and brings a new intriguing oddity to his writing work.
Despite lacking its consistent catchy flings that we saw in amicable favourites Keep Your Head Up and Only Love, from his loveable debut, Every Kingdom back in 2011 – the elusive narratives, rustic thrills and heart-ache guitar pangs from Dessner make it an album worth writing about.
As he careens from his original path of the folk/vocal combo and instead diving into a distortion of electronics, it just tells us more about what kind of singer-songwriter Ben Howard is. Compelling, inventive and simply unafraid to embrace change.
With single stand-outs few and far between – as it’s best as a collective – Sorry Kid, Crowhurst’s Meme and Finders Keepers are some of my favourites from the 14-track album. With themes less thought-provoking but rather taken straight from snapshots of news articles, the album is rife with collaborations and inspiration from seven co-collaborators who all have a hand-in making Howard’s next masterpiece.
While it may veer away from Howard’s original sound and sometimes veer off too much, it still manages to keep itself grounded allowing Ben to still flourish in moments of bitter-sweet beauty. While it’s a saddening moment to not hear Howard again flex his own acoustic compassion and folky vibes from Every Kingdom, just the musical journey alone he is undertaking is good enough for me.
Other album reviews for this month: