It’s been 4 years since British singer-songwriter Ben Howard released his second album. His latest creation, ‘Noonday Dream’, released on 1st June, is a collection of songs so peaceful and sleepy that you really do feel like you’re in a dream. It’s hard to tell whether he sat in his garden and wrote this album under the sun, or whether he walked around the earth three times, either way, it’s definitely enjoyable. A soft mix of musical adventures and complete standstills, this album is a surprisingly psychedelic take on his usual, classic folk style. It’s the kind of album you’d lie down in the park with, hit shuffle, and then just doze.
The opening track, ‘Nica Libres At Dusk’ sets the tone for the rest of the album – general notions about peace, reflection, and appreciation for the little things. Easily one of the album’s strongest tracks, it’s a perfect way to kick off and kick back. It settles, then, into a sort of lazy adventure. More of a walk along the beach kind of adventure than a dragon-slaying adventure, but playful and wandering nonetheless. ‘A Boat To An Island On The Wall’ is a little long but strangely pleasant despite this. It has its darker tones, of course, such as the almost ominously somber ‘The Defeat’, but the sadness lingering in the album is almost bittersweet in nature. ‘There’s Your Man’ was a little too straight-forward with its chord progression and vocals for my taste, but the lyrics certainly provided a strong point. This is true for most of the album, and likely reminiscent of Howard’s exploration of poetry in recent years, a journey that appears to have paid off, whether he realises it or not.
The final track, ‘Murmurations’, is another strong point in the album, echoing the sort of sad hopefulness that pervades throughout. It returns to the sleepy sense of still peace which the album started with, and the slow guitar fade creates a sort of atmospheric epicness that reminds one of the end of an 80s coming-of-age film, where everything is going to be okay. And calm. And still.
All in all, the album is a little subtler than his previous works with ‘Every Kingdom’ and ‘I Forget Where We Were’. It’s deeply personal, and echoes a sort of deep self-understanding Howard appears to have reached. It’s the kind of chilled album you’d put on in the background and would not disappoint were you to idly listen to the lyrics. It’s like the whole album takes place in an old seaside town, where someone feels a bit off but you don’t know why, and you don’t really care. It feels pastoral but also space-like and ethereal. A playlist for sleepy mornings and sunny evenings – and perfect for the coming summer.