When things aren’t going well, everyone has an album that acts like a cup of tea. Maybe you’ll listen to it and shed a few tears, or maybe it will make you drift quietly to sleep. Whether it’s the immortal Bon Iver, some old school Leonard Cohen or even just Adele, we all know those songs that allow us to wallow in self pity. Often it doesn’t change much over time and one album might just carry you through into middle age, but sometimes one just comes out of nowhere and makes you feel all weepy inside. For me, Keaton Henson did just that. With his dulcit voice and raw lyrics, this man has the ability to turn on the waterworks when the time is right.
His debut album, ‘Dear’, is essentially a break up album. But really it’s much more than that. The narrator in this tumultuous story still has tender feelings for his lost love and as a result the lyrics have a yearning, nostalgic mood. Henson has the rare ability to take mundane details of a person’s character and make them heartbreakingly profound. This is never more apparent than in the song, “Small Hands”, which lists the things he most misses about his ex lover. Henson manages to take the minutiae of a relationship and magnify it so that it takes on deep emotional significance. The acoustic guitar part is simple and stripped back, accompanied by a light pattering of drums underneath. What prevails is Henson’s soft vocal line, that at times sounds like sobbing.
“You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are” is the most haunting track on the album. With similarly spare backing, Henson creates a slow, whispering ballad. It has heartbreaking lyrics, with lines like: “You don’t like to be touched/Let alone kissed”. Here, Henson reveals his tendency for self deprication. There is regret in his words, but a clear sense of vulnerability underlies the whole thing. “Sarah Minor” is the most upbeat on the album (which isn’t saying much as it still makes me cry). It’s a love song with some beautiful moments. The lyrics are intimate to the extent that you feel as if you’re a bystander peeking into their particular window of time. The lilting guitar puts a pink filter on the whole story.
The tune and riff on “Nests” makes it another one to add to your spring playlist. It has the same subtle quality that the other gems of the album possess. Quiet, unassuming, but ultimately deeply affecting. My final pick is “Flesh and Bone” which has the best chorus of the album. I love his idea that a failing body needs nourishment of the soul to resurrect it. The song’s philosophical dimensions give it yet another quality perfect to have a good existential crisis to.
So, if you’re flailing a bit under the pressure of existing and you need a good cry to sort things out, add this to your list of sad albums. Sometimes whacking on some poetic music and letting the tears flow can be a remedy for disaster. But whilst I hope most of you don’t feel blue, I also know that we’re all human and shit happens.