To Observe.

v. ob·served, ob·serv·ing, ob·serves
1. To be or become aware of, especially through careful and directed attention; notice.


  • REVIEW: Keaton Henson, Birthdays 


    As an artists who shies away from public performances and focuses his lyrics on the deeply harrowing subject matter of life, Keaton Henson’s Birthdays, was never going to be a happy listen. But as shown in his last album Dear, and his EPs The Lucky EP and Sweetheart, the wonderful thing about Keaton Henson’s music is the balance that he manages to strike between beauty and fragility.

    Birthdays, however, may have leaned to close to the latter in its entirety. There can be no denying that each song on this album is wonderful composed, with the lyrics and the solitary harmonic lines infusing time and time again. But after the first three tracks of ‘Teach Me’, ‘10 AM, Gare Du Nord’, and ‘You’, it’s already becoming incredibly hard to listen to these gut wrenchingly honest lyrics. You begin to feel intrusive; someone is bearing his soul and you just listen. It’s all a bit much.

    But there is a change on this album that hasn’t been seen in Henson’s music before. Halfway through through ‘Don’t Swim’ you are hit by a barrage of sound. With no warning, Henson launches a full band, power chords, and soaring backing vocals at you. It’s a sheer wall of sound, and it’s one that proceeds through ‘Kronos’ and ‘Beekeeper’. This seems to be what the album has been lacking. Keaton Henson’s lyrics have always been close to the edge of breaking, close to a sadness beyond repair, and this moment of volume, of anger, is where he snaps. And it elevates the record no end. This is a different kind of sadness, one not so introvert and personal but public and unashamed.

    Many will criticise Birthdays for presenting ‘more of the same’ from Keaton Henson, and in a way this is true. He’s still damaged, he’s still saying things through music that he can’t in any other way, but people love this. The man rarely performs live, rarely ventures onto social media, but his brutal honesty has gained him a fairly substantial following. Where the album does differ, however, is in the presentation of sadness. It’s this snap in the middle of ‘Don’t Swim’, it offers a new kind of anger, a development that adds a huge amount to the album. It’s anger through beauty, beauty through anger.

    To Observe.