Though the name Keaton Henson has been thrown about quite a bit within the music mill over the past year, hearing references and snippits of his music has kept me intrigued though as someone who very rarely listens to the radio these days I haven’t heard much more than these mini musical snapshots to place any judgment or final thought on his efforts. When a promo copy of his forthcoming record, Birthdays was sent in my direction I was eager to wrap my ears around the long player and finally hear what the fuss surrounding Keaton Henson was really all about.
The general feel of Birthdays is very melancholic. There isn’t much in the way of an energetic pulse to be found here, aside from a brief moment in the latter half of the record, however we don’t particularly mind that – it kind of allows you to lay back and take in the lyrics and appreciate the musical mastery that Birthdays comes hand in hand with – much like his 2012 debut.
Over the course of ten tracks Keaton presents us with a collection dripping in breathy, saddened tones while the instrumentation is offered by either a piano, some captivating strums of a guitar or a mellow strings section.
A few notable pennings are present such as Gare Du Nord which sees Keaton joined by a female vocalist who sits side by side on the key points within the song, offering a stunning harmony filled number early on in the track listing.
You is another gem that finds a nesting spot at the start of the record and contains a sorrowful cello and violin arrangement that is both complimenting against Keaton’s honest and raw vocals as it is haunting, providing the track with an eerie feel.
The albums lead single, Lying To You is another highlight and the momentum, though still very casual, takes a slightly more up-tempo approach. Lyrically, the number is definitely a focal point on the album with lines like “all of these years you’ve been lonely and knowing not what you should do, and though you are right I’ve been looking as well, babe I’m not looking for you” while Keaton sings with that same conviction in his voice as heard on each song within Birthdays. It’s lyrically harsh and bittersweet yet musically captivating and frank.
Elsewhere on the album we get a slight taste of Americana with Beekeeper. The number is coated in a subtle static as Keaton unveils another lyrical nugget while the folk driven chorus delivers a memorable melody and the albums token up-tempo addition (sort of).
Since getting the album I have given each song a few turns on the iPod and have come to this conclusion: though Birthdays is incredibly engaging, vocally emotive and lyrically honest, the overall tone of the record falls a little by the wayside and I feel that the album is destined to spend its life gathering dust in buyers collections which is a real shame. In an unfortunate X-factor world filled with electro-pop and manufactured groups, there is so little demand these days for such a slow paced record like Birthdays. Don’t get me wrong – I am genuinely saddened at the thought of such a fine collection being released to a world that has become brainwashed by ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ one hit wonders because in the process artistic and credible acts like Henson float by relatively unnoticed and that is just heartbreaking. I could be wrong and I certainly hope I am because this is a record that deserves appreciation.
::: RenownedForSound.com’s Editor and Founder –
Interviewing and reviewing the best in new music and globally recognized artists is his passion.
Over the years he has been lucky enough to review thousands of music releases and concerts and interview artists ranging from top selling superstars like 27-time Grammy Award winner Alison Krauss, Boyz II Men, Roxette, Cyndi Lauper, Lisa Loeb and iconic Eagles front man/songwriter, Glenn Frey through to more recent successes including Newton Faulkner, Janelle Monae and Caro Emerald.
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