Release Date: Jun 1, 2018
Record label: Republic
A collage of moments both fleeting and everlasting Everything about the way that Noonday Dream visually represents itself is accurate. The dusty, barren artwork parallels its sense of isolation, while the title depicts the kind of nomadic drifts that characterize each song. On the heels of two vastly successful albums - Every Kingdom and I Forget Where We Were - this record is notably humble.
Rolling in like fog on the Atlantic, the aptly named Noonday Dream is an inward-looking and unassuming batch of ambient folk songs that still manages to invoke huge vistas. The Brit Award-winning singer/songwriter's third full-length outing, and his first collection of new material since 2014, the ten-track set was recorded by Howard and frequent collaborator and bandmate Mickey Smith over a two-year span in South West France and South West England. The electronic flourishes that were introduced on I Forget Where We Were are pushed a bit more to the forefront, but Howard's laconic, deadpan delivery and elegant guitar work constitute Noonday Dream's foundation.
Across a wildly successful two albums, Ben Howard has been defined by the breezy, radio-friendly folk of his singles, rather than the deliciously dark undertones that punctuate both of his records and the 'Burgh Island' EP from 2012. 'Noonday Dream' carries along this path, the singer's eye drawn closer towards darkness than the radio waves. It's a choice that pays off: his third album is an engrossing, deeply atmospheric trip, helmed by seven-minute monster 'A Boat To An Island On The Wall', that serves as a repositioning as well as a new highlight.
If someone had only heard the hit single 'Only Love' off Ben Howard's debut Every Kingdom, it would be easy to dismiss him as one of the many simplistic indie folk artists that spawned in the wake of Mumford Mania. However, to compare Ben Howard to that crop of artists is truly a disservice to his talent and scope as a songwriter. On songs such as 2011's 'Black Flies', he created beautifully unique soundscapes full of genuine emotion and heart.
The catchy folk-pop of 2011's Every Kingdom marked out Ben Howard as a safe bet for pleasing middle-class festival masses and won the Devon-raised guitarist a Brit award. His following releases were a little more uneasy. On 2012's The Burgh Island E.P. and 2014's I Forget Where We Were Howard held onto his knack for inward-looking, tender songwriting, but extended his guitar melodies into classically-influenced swells, and bathed every other part in tantalising reverb.