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EP Review: Ben Howard – Burgh Island

Fresh from a Mercury nomination, this is the moment when the world is waiting for Ben Howard to firm things up, grow, mature, confirm all that promise and establish an identity.

So, to delay the notorious Difficult Second Album Syndrome,  Howard has come up with the Burgh Island EP. Does it tell which camp he is going to fall into?

Burgh Island is still drive-time material. It’s listenable. And just inoffensive enough to still be highly marketable while narrowly missing out on being highly interesting. Its still quite tough to shed the idea that Howard is a less ginger, post-pubescant Ed Sheeran with a surf board. Or a Gotye minus the bodypaint.

Much has ben made of his similarity to John Martyn, and sure enough ‘Burgh Island’, the EP’s title track, is where Howard gets closest to his grizzly vocals and his eery palimpsests of loops and reverbs.  But before Howard can stand shoulder to shoulder with Martyn, he needs to smoke a few more cigars and battle several bouts of alcoholism.

Truth be told, it’s all a bit squeaky clean.  ’To Be Alone’ takes a stab at reaching for something truly sinster, but ruins it with a standard mellow rock refain. ‘Oats in the Water’ ends with some fairly indgulgent guitar work and by the time it finishes you feel you might have been watching a 3 hour Bruce Springsteen megaset. But then Bruce can pull that off. He’s Bruce. The Radio 2 listeners will love this, though.

It is ‘Esmerelda’ that opens Burgh Island - with its incessant, macabre fingerpicking –  and a song which maybe hints that Howard holds a some kind of dark promise that doesn’t have to me tempered by the demands of mass marketing or overdone to the point of melodrama.  Maybe Howard is destined to become another Bon Iver figure, reaping the reward of popular success and critical acclaim – although, if his marketing team don’t back off, perhaps he will never get the chance to see how much of a great he could become.

-Kate Travers

4 Comments on “EP Review: Ben Howard – Burgh Island”

  • pilou April 2nd, 2013 7:09 pm

    You fool ! This EP is a masterpiece from this musical GENIUS ! He’s above everyone I’ve heard in my entire life and I’ve heard A LOT !
    Thank you Ben keep your head up !

  • Bill Bird April 21st, 2013 12:01 am

    Love this

  • Bill Bird April 21st, 2013 12:02 am


  • Bill Bird April 21st, 2013 12:03 am


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