Keaton Henson’s stunning second album ‘Birthdays’ – February 25th13 December 2012
Keaton Henson will release his stunning second album, ‘Birthdays’, on February 25th – the follow-up to his critically acclaimed, Rough Trade Album of the Month, ‘Dear…’. This saw Henson pick up extensive support across Radio 1, XFM, and 6Music, having been declared one of iTunes Ones to Watch for 2012. The single ‘Lying To You’ will be out February 18th.
Despite ongoing issues with anxiety, ‘Birthdays’ also arrives fresh off the back of Keaton’s first ever live dates, which sold out in an hour at Kennington’s Cinema Museum this autumn, and picked up 5-star reviews across The Times and Line of Best Fit (“so damn special it may just wind up being the show by which we judge most future events”). Further singles – and possibly live dates –are expected from Keaton heading into the New Year.
At just 24 years old, Keaton Henson’s songs, artwork and poetry are known by hundreds of thousands of people around the
world. Yet he is a virtual stranger, whose anonymity is no accident. Keaton has never toured, posted on social networks, and
rarely leaves his hometown or his bedroom.If you wanted him, you’d have had to find him, as many fans did, for instance,
during ‘Gloaming’ – the celebrated exhibition of Keaton’s illustrative work, which saw him play one-on-one for each attendee
within a dollhouse. But whilst he may be delicate, this is no wallflower: Keaton’s songs are as brutal as they are beautiful.
Keaton Henson’s debut album, ‘Dear…’, showed how lovelorn sounds can mix powerfully with rawness and rough emotion.
Written and recorded in less than a year, ‘Birthdays’ goes even further. ‘Lying To You’ may sound like a love song, but it reveals
how painfully easy it is to be with someone you don’t love. ‘Teach Me’ longs for someone to convince you to feel something for
them, when in truth you feel nothing. And if ‘Dear…’ was beset by heartbreak, ‘Birthdays’ presents a character whose desire for
intimacy is haunted by an occasional urge for self-destruction. ‘Best Today’ shows how you can fall for a stranger on the tube, and
then forget them in a second. ‘Beekeeper’ warns you that this loneliness won’t go away. And in the album’s heavy climax, ‘Kronos’
casts Keaton as a monster, who will “take your soul, and eat you whole.” In both its loud and quiet moments, ‘Birthdays’ is
pierced through by Keaton’s unflinching lyrical honesty, which in part earned him his obsessive following on ‘Dear…’.
‘Birthdays’ sees Keaton Henson stepping outside of his comfort zone, both in tone, texture and also his hometown. American
producer Joe Chiccarelli (The White Stripes, The Shins, The Strokes) said he wanted to work on Keaton’s album. This meant
that Keaton had to travel to California, where he rented an apartment for two months. Keaton was terrified – not just by working
with a producer: he hadn’t flown in seven years – but also felt he had to do this. Leaving the solitary boy’s leafy suburbs, Keaton
Henson went to Hollywood.
It was whilst decamped in L.A. that Keaton met by chance (and eventually recorded with) several guests across the record.
He set up a temporary cave in the studio, recreating his bedroom’s isolation, but allowed others into the fray this time. As
such, ‘Birthdays’ features guest turns from members of Band of Horses (Tyler Ramsey), The Raveonettes (Sune Rose Wagner),
Alberta Cross (Sam Kearney) and even an early member of Pearl Jam (Matt Chamberlain). And whilst the record resonates
deepest once Keaton is alone with his electric guitar, it is also brought to vivid life by French horns, co-vocalist Jesca Hoop and
a ten-piece string section. Occasionally, as many musicians as possible joined in together: see the thunderous wall of guitars
across ‘Kronos’, or the epic coda to ‘Don’t Swim’. For Keaton, who has harboured a quiet love for hardcore music since he was
a teenager, this was the opportunity of a lifetime. Yet even in the famous Hollywood sunshine, he didn’t once take off his tweed
Slowly but surely, growing in confidence, Keaton Henson may just be stepping out of the shadows – not that he will ever be the
kind of artist to bathe in the light. Yet his music gets to the heart of us. And on ‘Birthdays’,we start to get to the heart of him.