From indie-bait to fucking great, the growth of alt-folk superstar Ben Howard has been a joy to follow.
Since emerging onto the scene in 2011 with the BRIT winning Every Kingdom, Howard has had a severe switch in style. His first album was a catalogue of light-hearted yet complicated guitar numbers, perfect for the legions of beanie wearing, bushy beard having hipsters that were unfortunately rife in the early 2010's. Simple music for simpler times. However, in his endeavours since then, Howard has lain his chirpy folk alter-ego to rest and now instead opts for darker tones, for darker days.
I Forget Where We Were was released in 2014. It was a complete shift in sound for Howard and hundreds of fans voiced their concerns with the singers new direction. Acoustic melodies were switched out for reverb heavy, brooding guitar solos - and gentle hums were replaced with mournful cries, a cracking switch up if you ask me.
The upset fans weren't an issue to Howard, when heckled at a gig to play songs from his debut he called his audience a "Bunch of c**ts". Charming, but understandable. It feels as though his switch in sound was almost an act of defiance against the outdated idea that musicians should only play their hits. It's always great to hear a few classics, but when an artist is touring a new album, don't be ticked off when they play new songs. We agree with you, Ben.
A switch in sound is necessary for growth, especially when the new sound is as atmospheric and volatile as Ben Howard's.
One of my favourite things about Glass Animals is how well they’ve developed their musical style over the years, while retaining the essence of their music that people loved to begin with. Vocalist and songwriter Dave Bayley has an incredible ability to bring stories to life, of both others and his own, through soft falsetto and heartfelt lyrics.
The band’s debut album, ZABA, explores the stories of people who Bayley has met, taking the listener on a journey through their lives. The uncluttered mix of the instrumentals and beats heard in each piece amplify the vocals, and the continuous use of electronic pop beats and indie rock drum patterns throughout the album links each individual track to create the record’s overall concept.
Dreamland, their latest record, is autobiographical, unlike ZABA, and uses a variety of tones and styles, from playful melodies to exuberant tempos. In a live virtual Glass Animals concert I attended recently, the band highlighted their progression from ZABA, a mellow puzzle where each track fits together to blend strangers’ stories, to Dreamland, an exciting exploration of Bayley’s personal experiences through a larger variety of genres such as hip-hop, rock and R&B. His inclusion of audios from home videos, interwoven throughout the album, drives home the nostalgic sentimentality of the album.
Glass Animals are consistently creative and original, but they have explored so much more in their latest album. Their change reflects just how much this band has evolved, and how much they have yet to offer.
A listen through these Virginia Beach natives’ catalogue from start to finish will show the progression from a typical pop-punk band playing fast-paced, angsty teenage songs to smoothed out dream pop professionals producing daytime radio standard bangers.
The band's debut full-length, ‘Magnolia’, while interesting in places, was primarily a pop-punk record, lacking the twinkly guitar harmonies and poetic ability they’re renowned for today.
Their sophomore album, ‘Peripheral Vision’, provided the perfect blend of indie rock, emo and shoegaze. It was as if they’d slowed down their previous efforts, drowned them in a shit load of reverb and given birth to some wonderfully miserable baby. With added guitar flourishes and a greater sense of rhythmic propulsion, this emotional masterpiece is a prime example of how a band can change their musical direction completely while managing to retain their old fan base and grow it considerably.
‘Good Nature’ was an excellent follow-up, providing a more spiritually concerned and feel good direction for the band, shrugging off the burdens made clear on ‘PV’ and transitioning to an almost surf rock infused state of happiness.
The most recent addition, ‘Altogether’, feels like a more simplistic and accessible version of what the band used to be. While it seems a little unfinished in places, it is still an enjoyable album, and although it may not match the sonic cohesion of ‘Peripheral Vision’ or the magic of ‘Good Nature’, it is a pleasant improvement from the band’s early days.
The changes in Turnover’s sound have been anything but inconspicuous, yet they have undeniably been for the better. With a more mature approach to song-writing and improved lyrical imagery, a much dreamier outcome has been achieved.