COLLECTIONS FROM THE WHITEOUT - BEN HOWARD ALBUM REVIEW
Collections From The Whiteout is Ben Howard's latest release, and his first since Noonday Dream in 2018, which seems a world away from Howard's new sound. Every second of Collections From The Whiteout is captivating, not just because of Howard's usual alluring lyrics but of a new-found love for tension-building electronic instrumentals.
Aaron Dessner from The National has also had a productive year, not just helping Taylor Swift out with her latest albums, but also contributing to this latest release from Howard. You can certainly see Dessner's fingerprints all over this album, with its atmospheric melancholy storytelling that he's well known for which transforms Howard's own signature folky sound.
So-called 'Lockdown albums' seem to fit into two categories; those telling the most personal and honest stories they've ever told through their music, and those making complete works of fiction. Collections From The Whiteout somehow straddles both categories.
However, these fictional tracks aren't exactly whimsical and magical, more haunting and odd. As an example, there's 'Finders Keepers' which tells the gruesome and downright weird story of a father's friend discovering a dead body, to the backdrop of slightly uncomfortable and chaotic instrumentals. It's a song that keeps you on the edge of your seat and sets anxiety running, before ending with the haunting lyrics "Why is it always me? / Finding things I should nеver have seen / Wherе are the angels at this hour?".
You can tell that every song on this album pushes Howard slightly out of his comfort zone and into something more experimental that we've not quite heard before. There's plenty of distortion and sharp edges throughout, which feel like they hit parts of your brain that music doesn't normally get to. In amongst the experimentation, there are hints of the more subtle and simple Ben Howard from previous releases, such as 'What and Day' and 'Metaphysical Cantations'
There's something a bit half-done about this album. The level of experimentation can feel a bit unsteady at times., and although most of the time it's caught at the point, can go a bit too far and overshadows the wonder of Howard's songwriting and vocals. There's perhaps a lack of focus, with a lot of ideas and concepts and not enough refinement.
That being said, overall, Collections From The Whiteout is a riveting listen and a great addition to Howard's discography, which shows the ongoing and ever-changing nature of his music.