Singer-songwriter Keaton Henson's second album Birthdays really is an album of two halves. It develops the hushed and emotionally frail sound found on his bedroom produced debut effort Dear. But crucially it introduces some explosive new elements, which as the title suggests really does sound as if Henson is now giving birth to the different sonic possibilities of his compositions. While it's still rather melancholy and shoe-gazing, Birthdays has a venomous streak waiting to emerge in its latter half that's worth sticking around for.
Reclusive is one word that's used to describe Henson regularly. While the Londoner has an air of the tortured artist about him, his seeming reluctance to embrace live performance hasn't dulled his ability to connect with an audience. His songs, while heartfelt, display a confidence and world-weary attitude beyond his years. He's not afraid of sparse arrangements yet when he does introduce new elements like strings, they don't distract from his delicate and whispered vocal. At times he really does seem to have captured the essence of what made Jeff Buckley's Grace so great, but he manages deftly to avoid imitating Buckley, despite adopting a remarkably similar sound.
"Damn it, don't expect me to change" Henson sings on opener 'Teach Me'. It's a song filled with emotional dysfunction and hope, backed with a solitary electric guitar and some ghostly backing harmonies. While it's not the most arresting introduction to Birthdays, it defiantly shows that Henson isn't interested in what's expected of him. Instead, he's more than happy to lull the listener into a false sense of security before unleashing his inner demons later on during the record. And for the first five songs that's exactly what he does. They're all delicate love songs filled with a single guitar, delay effects, some lovely harmonies, and the occasional bit of percussion thrown in. But suddenly as sixth track 'Don't Swim' seems to be winding down and Henson repeats the line "Don't lie" the record explodes into life.
Continue reading: Keaton Henson - Birthdays Album Review
The broad church that supports the collective assembly of Communion Records was only formed 6 years ago through the vision of Ben 'Mumford' Lovett, bassist Kevin Jones and producer Ian Grimble. From its early roots as a club night, it has now flourished into an umbrella that nurtures, produces and records some of the most interesting and individual emerging talents around. Communion Records has already had a helping hand in the development of Benjamin Francis Leftwich, Matthew And The Atlas, Alessi's Ark, Pete Roe and Lissie to name but a few. 'Communion: New Faces' represents the label's third full-length compilation and contains no less than 20 tracks from a diverse string of like-minded artists.
Continue reading: Various Artists, Communion: New Faces Album Review