Keaton Henson’s debut album Dear reminds listeners of the purest loss felt through heartache. The kind of heartache that makes you want to write about sharp feelings and become a forlorn hermit and ask yourself “What happened to ‘us’?” The poignancy of Henson’s words and his simplistic, repetitive folk melodies allows us to embrace the moments that most of us would rather forget.
Originally released in 2010 through Bandcamp, Dear gained much critical acclaim and was picked up and re-released by Sony in early 2012. Henson’s sound has been compared to the likes of Bon Iver and Elliott Smith, and with his distinctly frail-sounding voice it’s no wonder he has so quickly gained a considerable following. Despite the “singer-songwriter” genre’s tendency to feel somewhat stagnant and overrun by beautiful voices and heartfelt acoustic riffs, Keaton Henson is a fresh albeit melancholic addition.
If your heart isn’t already broken, it will be after listening to Henson’s first released single, “You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are”. Well, maybe not broken, but probably a little achey. In the song, Henson asks “Do you know your lip shakes when you’re mad? And do you notice when you’re sad?” All these things we wonder at the end of a relationship, Henson voices with thoughtful precision. In BBC’s review of Dear, writer Leonie Cooper points out: “It would almost be too much to bear, were it not for the soft melody dragging you deeper into his spellbinding sorrow.” Henson’s overall sound absolutely envelopes the listener into a contemplative state, one that isn’t necessarily angry but more dejected. Even in “Small Hands”, Henson talks of the loss itself and everything he misses while in the background plays a lighter, almost optimistic melody. The contrast of his notable musical talent and his tugging words make this album a must for anyone who wants to feel, and feel deeply.
Though Henson himself suffers from intense stage-fright and thus plays very few shows, Dear feels just as immediate and real when listened to through headphones. And while his work possesses a simply emotional sound, there exists definite beauty in the honesty of Dear. Keaton Henson is an artist whose work many are watching closely, and for good reason: his sophomore album Birthdays has just been released. Consider Dear an introduction to the poignant melancholy that makes the music of Keaton Henson.
Article: by Danielle Martin