The summer of 2013 was, in search of better words, possibly the best summer ever. 2014 came close, but there was a kind of recycled effect to it; and of course, there is the fact that in ’13 I got to spend a good four months in Cycladic recovery. I cannot immediately think of anything better than basking away a fourth of my whole year, basically forgetting what the urbanized world looks like; waking up to the glittering Aegean, hiking through obstinate shrubbery, eating local fruit and refusing to join my parents for ‘just a fast morning swim’. Dirt roads, salt hair, clear water. Falcons gliding through the afternoon skies, crickets chirping, sheep’s bells chiming from the distant mountainsides. Fig picking, beach fires, jeeps, and far too many wine bottles. My best friend Natalie took the ferry out from Athens; I hadn’t seen her in person since the end of seventh grade, when she moved away (and I cried rivers).
Of course, summers that stand so very still and mythical in the memory need an above-average soundtrack. Coincidentally, I had bought my mother Ben Howard’s debut album, Every Kingdom (released in 2011), among a small stack of suitable CDs a previous Christmas. Given Antiparos is a pretty rural place (no big hotels, no taxis, two baby-faced youths in police regalia), things get pretty primitive; CDs are heavily relied on in the rattling car, contemporary technological advance is shamed by the endurance of my mother’s enormous, outdated portable stereo, and nobody ends up caring where the noise is coming from, as long as it’s there. And so, by a stroke of luck, Ben Howard sung our lives for a good four months, shaped it with his camp-fire-beach-sand lyrics, plinking away into the Greek summer nights.
It so happens that the 20th of October, his second album was released; I Forget Where We Were. It also happens that in my excitement, I had unknowingly listened plenty to the title track’s live version, released on youtube a while before the actual release date. I’d also listened to End of the Affair, a harrowingly beautiful affair that had little in common which my Mediterranean summer vibes.
At least I know what I’m getting my mum for Christmas. Don’t get me wrong; I love everything the man makes, this including the EPs, the covers, and probably anything else that could ever spring from his wondrous vocal chords. But I Forget Where We Were is no summer album. It’s an autumn album, and as much as I love it, I can’t smell the sea or dream my way back to Antiparos on a whim. Instead it reminds me of 7 Bottles and London, tracks that contain a form of displaced pain, something I am thankfully not currently feeling (having done my own share of moving to the concrete jungle). There’s a lot of beauty in it, oceans of skill, and even an electric guitar; but Every Kingdom, 2013, was my summer. I swoon just to think of it. I swoon just listening to the album. It’s obviously not Ben’s fault.