I’m guilty in the sense that it took me so long to discover Keaton Henson, but soon after I first listened through his debut self-released album, Dear, he was back again with Birthdays. The bedroom-recorded, modest and raw talent that was prominent in Dear returns once again. From the first footstep that opens the album, right through to when it closes, you’re taken on a heart-wrenching journey that is filled with beautiful, warm vocals.
Despite being recorded in California, Teach Me opens the album with a chilling electric guitar and anxious vocal that reflect on his troubled past in a similar sound to Dear, which he self-recorded in his bedroom. Its slow and reserved approach is also made more prominent by the songs deep lyrics and ghostly harmonies, which follow into 10am Gare du Nord and display a slight vibrato in his voice under guest vocals from Jesca Hoop.
You introduces string instruments that add a new texture to Keaton’s raw voice that keeps pushing the post-traumatic lyrics but it isn’t until Lying to You that the harmonies and experimental sounds reappear creating a wilderness of sound. Something changes at this point as The Best Today begins. It’s difficult to pick up at first, but the soft beat behind the song highlights his emotions are building up. A gentle but rolling bass line is explored too adding another new texture to the mix. While the song ends softly, it doesn’t prepare you for what is thrown at you next.
Don’t Swim begins in the same mysterious way as The Best Today, however while it may appear those emotions were calmed, they actually explode in a frenzy and the heavy outro reveals an even darker theme to the already troubled lyrics that you could only expect by Keaton. It’s followed in Kronos which thunders into action straight away and is almost devilish in nature. A rougher, more explicit vocal takes shape here too. The distorted guitar echoes out at the end leading into a banjo led Beekeeper.
In Sweetheart, What Have You Done To Us, the bedroom feel is brought back in his fluttering voice – sounding a little towards Jeff Buckley and his iconic vibrato in Grace. Use of the French horn and martial drum give a little magic to the song before it fades out into the piano that is of In The Morning that reflects on his anxiety of large crowds. The beautifully composed song finishes softly before the footsteps that begin the album are ended as he leaves the room.
Birthdays takes you on an emotional journey, beginning soft and slow before the truly mesmerising action in The Best Today and Kronos. Keaton Henson’s modest and raw vocal is powerful against the reflective instrumentals that you hear throughout and demonstrates how an album can be written for the passion and when it is, the result will be sensational.
|Date:||2013, February 22nd|