Music

New Keaton Henson album reiterates sad introspection of earlier records

Keaton Henson, for the most part, is a singer-songwriter. For that reason alone, his discography should be safe if not a bit predictable — a sad boy singing about sad things. There really isn’t much progression between any of his albums; “Birthdays” was a bit harsher than “Dear,” and “Romantic Works” was entirely experimental and incredibly strange. Listeners know what to expect with Henson: heartbreaking lyrics coupled with his delicate vocals.

“Kindly Now” is still in that safe zone, an ode to Henson’s misery and heartbreak, his shyness, and his inability to be. It should be a boring album, but instead, just like “Dear” and “Birthdays,” it’s brilliantly sad. There’s something incredibly captivating about Henson’s voice, almost compelling about the way he strips himself bare for listeners, causing havoc and heartbreak just like the monsters he sings about in “Alright.” While other singer-songwriters come across as one-trick ponies, Henson continues to deliver something in his honest sadness that keeps his albums fresh.

“Kindly Now” is a tear-jerking album. “The Pugilist,” where Henson rips into himself, is disturbingly relatable for anyone who has ever had self-doubt. “Old Lovers in Dressing Rooms” is worse than any Adele song as Henson reminisces about an ex who comes to visit. “Holy Lover” is a breath of fresh air through Henson’s clever use of rounds to express a new love. “Good Lust” is about two people who aren’t in love — and listeners can almost hear their breath in the strange, eerie sound the song creates.

While it begins to stagnate towards the middle of the album, “How Could I Have Known” is almost church-like in its plaintive building, ending the album on the sounds of a lonely piano.

The best part about Henson is how specific his songs are. It’s like a diary entry in the sense that it feels so incredibly real. Because of that, the album comes across as sincere and specific, but it’s also universal. Everyone has had their heart broken, has been unhappy, has been in love and in lust with someone else.

Because these emotions are so honest, Henson isn’t really a musician but a poet, and his gentle and talented voice carries the album through the emotional burdens he croons about.

While “Kindly Now” doesn’t do anything differently than “Birthdays” or “Dear,” and even borrows a bit from “Romantic Works” in the first song, it’s still a great album. There’s something to be said of the singer-songwriter that continues to captivate without tricks or pandering. Henson just delivers himself — honestly, recklessly, and beautifully, and will leave you a bit of an emotional wreck.

“Kindly Now” will not be kind to you — but that’s okay. True love, after all, is supposed to be heartbreaking.

Emera Riley is a junior magazine journalism major. Her column appears weekly in Pulp. You can email her at elril100@syr.edu

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