Everybody listens to music in their own unique way. There are those who want something just to tap their toes to. There are those who want something to sing at the top of their lungs. And there are those like me, who seek emotional depth from both the music and lyrics. This is where Keaton Henson, and his most recent album, Kindly Now, comes into play.
Henson is an artist whose music I was introduced to back in 2014 during an episode of the short-lived program, In The Flesh, on BBC America. “You” was featured in the show’s series finale. His vocals are hauntingly beautiful and soothing, yet darkly-tinged. And on Kindly Now, there’s rarely anything backing up that falsetto, save for some light piano accompaniment, a smattering of strings, or the tiniest hint of electric guitar. The instrumentals on the record help set the tone throughout its 47-minute duration, ebbing and flowing from soft, light strings in “Alright” to gospel-like harmonies complementing his voice in the upbeat song “Holy Lover.”
Songs filled with heartbreak and sadness appear fairly early on in the album. “Alright” comes in at about three minutes and 30 seconds into Kindly Now, and packs quite an emotional punch. The track has an eerily similar vibe to songs from Henson’s 2013 album, Birthdays, with both possessing a calming aura to them, tinged with bittersweet moments everyone has experienced at some point in their lives.
Lyrically, this has some of the most poetic lyrics I’ve seen from any songwriter these days. Thematically, they grapple with feelings of depression, acceptance, anxiety, past relationships and relentless beauty. In “Good Lust,” Henson finds himself questioning, “What is good lust?” In the same song, lyrics like “You and me/Our bodies made of chemistry/Tell me what you want from me/And I will sit and wait for you to sleep and ask the moon,” are simple, yet profound.
Wounded, hurt and lost souls might find solace in this record. People whose hearts are still breaking over past loves will find some sort of comfort in Kindly Now. If you like artists like Sufjan Stevens and Jeff Buckley, Keaton Henson is worth checking out.
As an accompaniment to the album, he did an illustrated interview with DIY Mag. The feature is an interesting take on a traditional interview, and acts as an illustrated guide to the album as a whole.