2Z3eCyCHVOrZk5VT68sx84gC1ruFor a number of reasons, I’m glad I pre-ordered Ben Howard’s latest album, I Forget Where We Were. When I got home Tuesday afternoon I found the album ready and waiting on my doorstep. I also found Howard’s lyrics, which would have eluded me for all of his incomprehensible slurring, printed inside the front cover.

If you’re not yet a Ben Howard fan like myself, it’s possible you’ve heard of him from this rad song featured in Season 4 of The Walking Dead. And if still, somehow, he has evaded you, here’s what you need to know: acoustic picking carries most of his music, and haunting, mysterious lyrics keep his songs fresh.

But I Forget Where We Were hits a darker note than his first album, Every Kingdom, which relied largely (and effectively) on upbeat lyrics and buoyant nostalgia. I Forget Where We Were begins with what Rolling Stone calls discordant notes from the opening song, “Small Things.” At first uncomfortable, “Small Things” provides the perfect entryway for the descent which unfolds throughout the remaining tracks. Highlights include “Time Is Dancing” and the title song, “I Forget Where We Were,” which illustrates a return to a long-lost lover. Howard himself said that this track, and the album itself, represents his return to the reality of the world after a lengthy departure into the whirring realm of prosperity following Every Kingdom’s unexpected success.

A number of reviews have remarked, however, that the album reaches its climax at the eighth track, “End Of The Affair,” when four minutes of melancholy splinters into a frenzy of angry, explosive guitar riffing. And with a title like “End Of The Affair,” I can’t help but feel like Howard is deliberately evoking Graham Greene who wrote a novel by the same name. In Greene’s story, the narrator, Bendrix, falls in love with a married woman, Sarah. After a burning love affair, Sarah abruptly calls it off, never to see Bendrix again. Bendrix suspects she must have found some other guy, and (spoiler) she has: it is God, who has convinced Sarah to end the affair. Long story short (it’s not a long story at all, actually), Bendrix, once a disillusioned atheist, develops a belief in God, whom he also hates. Bendrix confesses to God, “Nothing—not even Sarah—is worth our hatred if You exist, except You.” Bendrix, once apathetic towards the general concept of God, develops an impassioned, specific hatred of Him. In this case, Bendrix has turned 180 degrees towards God, finding every ounce of himself angry at the One who has taken from him the only thing he wanted.

Greene, generally considered a bad Catholic, renders a highly imperfect yet realistic relationship to God. Greene himself sanctioned The End of the Affair as a “Catholic” novel. The question remains: How can a religious story end in hate?

Ben Howard, in his own lyrical Affair, creates a mood to match the novel: pain and heartbreak are followed immediately by fury and hatred. Looking deeper at the lyrics inside my CD cover, I saw countless parallels between the novel and the song. A Greene-esque line stopped me:

“My hatred, my hate will bring me closer.”

Strangely this line remains almost impossible to hear on the track; the instrumental elements, which heighten around the five-minute mark, drown it out. Though barely discernible, Howard includes the above line in his official lyrics, proving that sometimes the most important details may also be obscured.

Hatred, as I’ve often understood it, causes division. It is extreme repugnance. Howard, though, argues that “hate will bring me closer,” that hate has the power to pull disparate elements together. The Lumineers sing, “The opposite of love is indifference.”

Greene, too, suggests a similar conclusion in The End of the Affair. For Greene, and for the religion he was drawing from, closeness to God is everything: the manifestation of Christ in the Eucharist, His presence through sacraments. Dwelling with Him, in accordance to His power, His will, is of greater importance than flickering emotions regardless of how impassioned they may be.

And whether in love or hate, as Greene says, “You cannot conceive, nor can I, of the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God.”