Editors’ Notes Much like Slowdive and Mojave 3 frontman Neil Halstead, Ben Howard is a surfing folk singer/songwriter who lives in the English surf capital of Newquay, Cornwall. But where Halstead’s whispery inflections have been compared to Nick Drake's, Howard opens his Burgh Island singing like an unstrained Conor Oberst over nimble acoustic arpeggios that recall early-'70s John Martyn. “Esmerelda” sets a tone that’s as dark and foreboding as the cover art, as Howard croons elongated vowels over melancholic minor chords and a background pianist who fills the empty space with deep pulsating notes. The following “Oats in the Water” gets fleshed out with a rhythm section and the sublime warble of an old grinding organ before the song unfolds and rocks out toward the end with howling guitar distortion that fans of Neil Young & Crazy Horse should appreciate. Echoes of early-'90s shoegazing hover like a thick coastal fog over the beginning of “To Be Alone.” Howard seems most comfortable when singing harmonies over electric guitars, as heard in the eight-minute closer, “Burgh Island.”

SONG
Esmerelda
1
4:44
 
Oats In the Water
2
4:59
 
To Be Alone
3
5:37
 
Burgh Island (feat. Monica Heldal)
4
8:13
 

More by Ben Howard

Featured On