Amazing there's still just one review here, but i hear that Howie has been received better in Europe than in the US (not counting his home, Canada, of course) which makes sense, cause his music is far too modest and as unassuming as his name at first glance.
But if you give this album the attention & care that it probably took making, you'll be rewarded with a classic slowburner and although there's a distinct vein of melancholy runnning through the tracks, Howie manages never to sound boring or self-pitying, even if he confesses that "baby played around on him". There's always an uplifting quality to his songs, and the dark undercurrent in his lyrics is countered by the flawless & luscious production.
Although he prefers to do it all by himself (most instruments, recording, mixing etc.) the record is anything but lo-fi, and you can really hear the careful attention to detail. I love the fact that his music sounds polished but stays true to the indie spirit at the same time.
Although it is best digested as a whole, there are some standout tracks, all for different reasons. "Baby plays around" is pop in perfection, "Maybe I belong" a wonderfully luscious lament, "What you found" a catchy uptempo rocker, while "Serves you right" - with its repressed anger and piercing lyrics - is probably the secret highlight of the album. Howie Beck's hushed, subdued voice blends into all these different moods, and is also complemented by some wonderful string arrangements from Taylor Savvy.
In the meantime, Howie Beck released an even better (and modestly successful) 3rd album in 2004 (thus only 4 stars here), and has a new album coming out in February 2009 (5 years between his albums is nothing unusual by the way). Maybe this will garner him even more attention and lead to people actually checking this review.