I come across new music (to me, at least) on a fairly regular basis, and most of the time I listen to a few tracks and move on with my life. Every now and then, I find someone like Keaton Henson, whose work won’t let me walk away. British singer Keaton Henson has some of the most compelling lyrics I’ve ever heard, and while I know very little about him, that seems to be a running theme with him. He prefers to record songs alone (or at least not in front of a crowd) in solitary spaces, but he sings with such a fantastically universal appeal that I feel like he’s right here with me, rather than locked away in a room recording songs. The only way to explain this is through some examples of his work.
This track, “You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are,” starts with some haunting harmonics that wobble into a Modest Mouse-esque sound which is extremely rich and compelling. Henson then sings of loss, perhaps to an ex-girlfriend, about her newfound love, and asks her “Does he know/not to talk/about your dad?” which shows how in-touch Henson was with whoever he lost. The ebb and flow of the backing melody is perfect when describing the passions behind a lost love, and when he ends the song “Does his love make your head spin?” you know why the song ebbed and flowed like it did–he just made your head spin. This work is truly a piece of art, and is by far my favorite song by Keaton Henson.
“Sweetheart, What Have you Done to Us?” continues the trend of the flowing melodies backing Henson’s amazing vocal performances. This track has an extremely peculiar video attached to it, and it makes the song even sadder than it already is. When the powerful horns chime in paired with Henson’s trembling voice, it gets me every time. The song ends with “Sweetheart, what have you done to our love?” rather than “us,” and the change is very simple and beautiful.
Lastly, Henson’s track “f.r.i.e.n.d.s” is a perfect blend of lyrical prowess with an understated melody–exactly the duo Henson’s solitary work exhibits. “All I ever really wanted was to stay at home/resting in a dirty bed on brittle bones/But lately I’ve been feeling like that can’t come true/in the company of you, in the company of you.” The way these lyrics flow is just fantastic, and it further illustrates the power his seemingly-weak voice entails.
While these three songs are just a sample of his work, they are all powerful enough to stand alone. I encourage you to listen to more of Henson’s work, not just these few songs. Henson is an artist I won’t soon forget, and I encourage you to try and find some points of beauty in his work for yourselves.