Album Review/Preview: Keaton Henson – Dear…/Birthdays (Motive Sounds; 2010/13)

BY DARREN McCULLINS

One of music’s great challenges is to create an album that on the surface can be perceived as wry and low key, and yet contain optimum power.  Yet, somehow, the reluctant Keaton Henson has done it. If ever a work can be described as an enigma, his debut album Dear.. is it.

There is no one that has the sound of Keaton Henson, but then maybe that is because there are not many people like Keaton Henson. At sight you might think Jesus is back, but he’s so much better than that. As well as dwelling in music, he is also an artist and poet; very finely tuned indeed. His shyness and timidity means you should not expect massive touring and sparkling gigs however, his song writing is his shell, a shell he reluctantly and seldom leaves to perform live.

Dear.. is easy listening, there is nothing obviously hard hitting in the melodies, they simply flow like a stream from song to song. Essentially the album is a tapestry of emotion; a letter to you, a letter from you- with the tracks pulled from over 100 he penned following the break-up of his first love, where a third party signalled a premature end. These songs were originally written in his own
Henson’s voice is soft, almost trembling with the sincerity he feels in his songs, songs that you were not meant to hear. His poetics obviously transfer into his song writing, and this pull of songs form a complete work that is not to be dipped in and out of, but listened to as a whole. This letter leaves no loose ends; the emotions within it are expressed powerfully. It is like this album lives inside us all, but only upon hearing it can we reach it.confidence and stored away on a hard-drive before a friend persuaded him to float them online; it all took off from there.

You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are wakes Dear.. with a gong and intense brittle lyrics that grab your intention- this is a real story. Sarah Minor plots romantic troubles and the confusion they bring to innocent minds while Small Hands comes across as a heartfelt desperation from deep within Henson. Just a sample of the personality and insight the tracks offer.

Although essentially a singer/songwriter, it just doesn’t seem right to place him in such a genre. He deserves his own category (I have no doubt he would enjoy the isolation), he is something else that floats out there, I just can’t put my finger on where, or how he has done it.

Birthdays, the follow up album, is due out next week and is the next stage of Keaton Henson saying what needs said, I think we should all listen, while he lets us.

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