Apparently, Ben Howard is a man out of step with the troublesome nature of modernity. He no longer bothers with mobile phones (he’s lost 7 to date), he’s yet to dabble with digital television, and he finds this social networking malarkey irksome. It’s a stance that resonates through his music too, all recorded in a crumbling, creaking barn in rural Devonshire and nestled between the moors and the sea. Set against a world of computerised melodies, he is the ultimate argument for returning to basics by proving that this is a method that works.
The utterly organic sound that runs through Ben’s work is endearing just as much as it is unique. You cannot help but admire his steadfast commitment to ensuring his music is produced the way he wants it, and in doing so he draws you into his world, making you crave the simplicity that allows him to be so effortlessly relaxed. The rich tone of his voice & the way he utilises it are hypnotic whether on a slower song like Old Pine (below), the lead track from his new EP, or a more uptempo, almost frantic song, such as The Wolves. Throughout every track you fully understand that this is music born out of nights spent sitting on a beach as the sun sets on the horizon; a sound that is particularly unusual to find in the UK, especially loaded with such emotion and passion. For me, the best place to truly get away from everything is at Glastonbury, when you are completely separated from the outside world simply because technology is not an option; Ben Howard reinforces that idea. In fact, if eschewing the modern world makes you this relaxed, then he has certainly shown its appeal!
If you’ve heard Chase & Status’ latest offering, Blind Faith, you will already, perhaps unwittingly, have heard Liam Bailey who provides the vocals. Now, he looks set to make it on his own with his gorgeous soulful music. His voice is rich and velvety, and current single You’d Better Leave Me Darling sounds like contemporary Motown. It’s a refreshing, retro twist on the R’n'B flooding the market at the moment, as he creates an uptempo, emotional song speaking of a man’s uncertainty, and this vulnerability is endearing. If further proof of his credentials as an artist were needed, below is his acoustic cover version of Etta James’ I’d Rather Go Blind. Stripped bare his voice is even more stunning, the deep, smooth tones filling every song he sings with a passion that infiltrates the listener. Each lyric, whether it be self-penned or otherwise, is fantastically sincere. No matter what style of music you are into, you cannot deny Bailey’s talent and the charming nature of his music. So, for those who want to hear more from the man responsible for the vocals that help make Chase & Status’ latest offering so spectacular, below is the video for current single You’d Better Leave Me & as mentioned his gorgeous cover of I’d Rather Go Blind, I challenge you not to melt!
I’ve decided to adopt an occassional feature of Do You Know, highlighting “hype” artists that you may not have heard of yet, but are likely to be doing big things in the next couple of years thanks to the support of bloggers and industry taste makers. The first of these features is all about Little Comets. The band hail from Newcastle and have slowly been gaining a following virally, but now seem to be close to attracting mainstream success. Musically, they sound like proper indie. It’s easy to see this as typical guitar led music, but its attraction lies in the quality of their writing and Robert Coles’ stacatto voice juxtaposing with harmonic backing vocals. It all combines to create a unique and compelling sound. They have also been helped by their ability to strip back to completely change a song, so that current single Joanna becomes Joannacapella and a surprisingly beautiful version of the song (it’s important to point out here that it is hard for a guitar band with a specific sound to make this transition so easily).
Ultimately though, as strange as it sounds their success could well lie in clever online marketing and their sense of humour. For a start, their debut album In Search Of The Elusive Little Comets, which is not available to buy until next week, is already being streamed on Facebook (HERE), via Soundcloud, a genius idea allowing a try before you buy format for anyone unsure of whether that it is an album they would enjoy, and bypassing the need for Spotify. Also, if you log on to their YOUTUBE channel you can find some amusing and intriguing videos. A personal favourite is their decision to gatecrash lectures at Sheffield University and start playing before getting unceremoniously removed! The most musically interesting and which, according to the email I received informing me about their album, has now gone viral is of the whole band playing their song One Night In October on one guitar. The video is so good because it shows not only a sense of humour, but also perfectly exemplifies their sound and musical ability. So that is what I have chosen to present to you as an introduction to a band you can expect to hear a lot more from in the next couple of years.