By Devon Hannan, Contributor
[PIAS America; 2016]
Key Tracks: ” The Pugilist,” “Gabe,” “How Could I Have Known,”
As if there wasn’t enough suffering in the world already, Keaton Henson continues his theme of depreciation in his latest album, Kindly Now. Teeming with melancholy narratives, Henson talks about his innermost struggles on the forefront of his songwriting platform. If one thing is for certain, Kindly Now will absolutely wreck you.
The album features intense lyrical themes as well as a few well-executed instrumental tracks, each packed with ringing winds, subtle keys, or an intense build between strings. These instrumental tracks serve as perfect segues into different lyrical terrains. They carry tone so well that the listener doesn’t have a chance to do anything but fully immerse themselves in the subject matter.
While the auxiliary on this album is very well articulated, Keaton Henson’s vocals alone prove to be the most powerful instrument on the album. Henson truly outdoes himself with trembling vibratos and meticulously placed accents. The first minute of “Holy Lover” features kind and airy harmonies chanting, “Baby, please don’t be afraid of me, I think I love you.” The detail in each track is so intricate that it could be snapped like a twig.
Kindly Now is a further extension of Henson’s backbreaking journey of self doubt. The album demonstrates songwriting that is so honest and cutting, it may even be considered brave. In tracks like “The Pugilist,” Henson details his wretched lifestyle as an artist. “I care only for art and career, so scared of death that I try to leave part of me here. I am lonely.”
While the majority of this album flows with delicacy, Henson’s few attempts at something different end up being messy. “Comfortable in Love,” for example, has killer guitar movement, yet his vocals do not adequately mesh with the instrumentals at hand. Instead of continuing that smooth procession, it sounds indisposed, off setting the build.
While every track may not necessarily be perfect on the ears, Henson’s Kindly Now gave him an outlet where he could be angry. Whether that anger be geared toward himself or his choices in company, this album proves to be utterly gut wrenching. Every lyrical and instrumental element is carefully woven together to create a work that is tainted with colors both devastating and beautiful.