Sandtimer Selects: Ben Howard – ‘What A Day’

This is the fourth post in a blog series called ‘Sandtimer Selects‘, to which we’ll be adding a new song every week or so. You can find all the posts so far here.

It’s spring where, with sudden alacrity, the days lengthen, the trees blossom and the sun steps up a gear. Things can inexplicably feel a bit easier, lighter and more hopeful. Simultaneously, there’s the knowledge that it’s not so long until the days start getting shorter again- that, maybe, spring has happened unnoticed and its beauty has already flown.

With every year of life there’s a growing sense that, yes, there are only so many springs left and that there’s nothing you can do to change that (except the obvious stuff, like try not to smoke, or drink too much, or drive too close to the car ahead). It’s a melancholy, bittersweet feeling, infused by the joy of seeing the world returning to life.

What A Day is from Ben Howard’s soon to be released album, Collections From The Whiteout. For me, it is a really transcendent song and captures that beauty and sadness of time passing and seasons changing.

Great, slightly mental video, too

The song kicks off with a mesh of interlocking, softly chiming acoustic guitars and a resonant, warm bass, drifting between D and C in a mixolydian, somehow timeworn sounding tonality. Gradually, more electric, discordant textures develop, marrying the earthier natural sounds with a more haunting backdrop. It’s the sound of a sunlit field with the occasional big cloud passing over. A striking key change that only becomes clear a few chords in heralds the melancholy, crystallising refrain: ‘where does all the time go?’- a question it feels like the music has already asked.

One of the things it’s easy to forget as a musician when you’re actually trying to create the work (particularly during this 15 month live music drought) is the genuine joy and comfort music can bring. It can so often feel like a favour granted when someone listens to a song, rather than the reciprocal exchange it really is. But hearing a song like What A Day reminds me of the pure healing power music can have, creating a space to ponder and reflect within.


We’ve added the song to the ‘Sandtimer Selects’ playlist which is embedded below- you can also find it here.