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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
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Having been a late convert to Ben Howard's "Every Kingdom" its been a fascinating task tracing his development. On that album it is the uplifting songs that drag you into his musical tent; the pounding "The Wolves" and the soundtrack for any summer "Old Pines", On this latest EP "The Burgh Island" it is black seas and darker clouds on the cover that replace the bright sunlight breaking through the blue water of "Every Kingdom". It signals an altogether bleaker and more menacing focus in the songs of Ben Howard and also the tell tale signs that he is developing into a much more powerful and considered songwriter. True on "Every Kingdom" there were songs such as "Black flies" that showed his ability to inject a wintery chill but on "The Burgh Island" the mood is overwhelmingly brooding and slightly heavy. Who knows what demons this small island just off the coast of Devon hold for Howard but this EP release is expertly timed to anticipate the shifts of the changing seasons. Howard recognised this in a recent interview when he stated "I think I like the autumn, because it's kind of ominous. Winter's just behind it, but everything's sleepier and it's quite cool, but you know everything's going to get dark real soon,".

Throughout the expert finger-picking guitar style of Howard is the perfect rolling backdrop to these hymns of melancholy. Opener "Esmeralda" starts with building chords and a plaintive mood that references "black seas", the "monster that killed the melody of love" and a powerful verse where Howard observes "Blinded, now I see the death, moves amongst us /And with such ease surround us /These silent beasts so hard to bare". Its stirring stuff and builds to a large impressive crescendo. If anything the granite like "Oats in the Water" takes an even darker turn and shows growing maturity with any residual surfing jibes about him being the "British Jack Johnson" rendered completely redundant as it all ends in an angry swirl of electric guitar. It is the third track however "To be alone" that sees Howard effectively employing new soundscapes to punctuate his work. It starts like a Thom Yoke song with ghostly echoing guitar until a more conventional song emerges where the distinctive vocal is probably the best on the whole EP. Finally things do ease somewhat for the near seven minute title track which has a more "chill out" set of atmospherics and is a beautifully slow lament that gently unfolds overs over an echo laden Fender until around the five minute mark when the gorgeous voice of Norwegian newcomer Monica Heldal breaks through to bring the song to a haunting conclusion. This is very fine EP by Howard and probably sets the direction of travel for the sophomore album that he is currently working on. Its good to see that he is not content to rest on his laurels and all of this augers well for the future.
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on 5 November 2012
Ben Howard being amazing, yet again... These songs are a lot darker than his Every Kingdom album but just as beautiful. Plus this download is £1+ cheaper than iTunes who bumped up the price as soon as they realised the EP was going to be popular! Love it!
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VINE VOICEon 31 July 2015
I found this difficult to get into at first. It does not have the dynamic appeal of his first album or the haunting melodies of his second, but after a few plays things start to fall into place and as the tracks start to become familiar you once again are drawn into the passion and feelings that Ben generates in his music. I am now playing it every day and enjoying it more and more.
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on 7 August 2013
This EP is a darker and, dare I say, an 'experimental' progression from his previous Every Kingdom album. This is very much the case for the opening track 'Esmerelda' which then leads on to the superb 'Oats In The Water' (referring to oats in the water after a storm, I think - could be wrong). Not sure what else to say about this song other than it's moody & brilliant and, unlike the other tracks, would have fitted in on the Every Kingdom album.
The third track has the same moody intentions as the first. In fact both the 1st & 3rd tracks remind me of This Mortal Coil (80s 4AD Records group) - no bad thing at all.
All closes with title track 'Burgh Island', featuring Ben singing over seductive guitar played over indecipherable background sounds. Personally, I'm not totally sure about this one AND its over 8 mins long. It changes tack halfway through to virtually a different song - think maybe its going to grow on me. (I get the feeling that maybe he's influenced by the Fleet Foxes' habit of cobbling two songs together here.)
I also think that this EP is Ben's warning that his next album ain't gonna be much like Every Kingdom! (Weep, you poor souls)
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on 24 February 2013
I needn't comment on the actual MP3 because it is like every other one. I will say however it's slightly irritating to have to download the special amazon programme to be able to download it, because I very rarely download music. I only downloaded this because this is the only way I can get the music.

I love Ben Howard, and I love this EP because it is refreshingly dark. It's a darker turn on his more melodic tunes and I do rather love it. I'd recommend it to anybody who loves Ben Howard, or who likes darker folk music.

I keep saying dark, I know. I don't know how to describe it, but if you listen to it, you'd understand why I keep using this term.
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on 16 November 2012
I have listened to Ben Howards "Every Kingdom£ album for the past year and have loved its summery vibe but I am very pleased to see that Ben went down the road of a darker broodier wintery sound, similar to that of "black Flies" from Every Kingdom.

All 4 tracks are outstanding in their own right and fits perfectly with the season upon us.
Be very intersting to see which route he goes down for his next full album..

Ben is a very underated musician within the industry, but when you hear him you will fall in love with him.
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on 25 January 2015
I don't usually buy digital music or EPs but as a Ben Howard fan and hearing Oats in the Water on Zane Lowes R1 show thought I would make an exception. Oats in the Water is a stand out track, but the other tracks are great and I am sure they will grow on me with (undoubtedly going to happen) more plays. It is dark and moody, full of emotions and heavier than the other things Ben Howard has done up to this point.
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on 27 May 2013
Continuing where the brilliant 'Every Kingdom' left off, these tracks show a darker side to Ben. The timing of this release probably got lost in the commotion of Ben winning two Brit awards, therefore could get overlooked as people rush to buy the album instead. People should buy the album of course, but take a minute to check this out. I just hope that Ben now take his time to record a consistent follow-up and doesn't feel the need to bow down to public pressure
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on 12 October 2013
These 4 earlier tracks to Ben Howard's debut highly successful album are really beautiful, Although slow and thoughtful they still pass the old grey whistle test as I couldn't get them out of my mind after hearing them and had to listen through several times again. Love it!
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on 31 December 2012
This was the second thing I bought on Kindle. I'd tried to get it before as I loved it when I heard it on the radio, but could only find it for mp3, so when I got my Kindle this just had to be bought. I wasn't disappointed, it's brilliant!
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