Music Speaks: Part One
With the risk of sounding cynical, clichéd or old fashioned aside, I have to stick by my guns and confess that the lyrics of most popular songs of the recent decades just don't do it for me. What makes so many songs a hit it appears, is how it's produced; how it's artificially moulded into being a catchy duplicate of last weeks number one. Everything sounds the same, nothing feels authentic, lyrics fade into insignificance. Before I continue, let me clamber off my high horse for a moment and admit that I am only a mere mortal, there are days where I listen to Carly Rae Jepsen, Selena Gomez and Rihanna, or on a bad day all three in succession! I am a complete novice to the technicalities of music, having never taken up an instrument nor able to hold a pleasant note in my life (Don't you just loath those people that insist "Everyone can sing?!") That being said, when I discovered Keaton Henson, a London based musician, several years ago, I instantly fell in love with his music. For someone who is passionate about language, his lyrics feed the soul. Every word has a poignancy, an elegance and a sincerity brought to life and enhanced by the fragility of Henson's voice. Many people have likened him to the late Jeff Buckley and indeed the two have a notable "hauntingly beautiful" characteristic to their music and distinct voices.
Until I heard Henson's music, I could never really empathise with people who felt 'moved' by music; I was always wowed by the talent of certain musicians and thoroughly enjoyed listening to music, but that was about the extent of it. When I stumbled across "Small Hands" a few years ago, I instantly fell in love with the song. Something about the arrangement of it, the sincerity of the lyrics and the unique voice was my first fix of what was to become a burgeoning addiction. As I listened to more songs from his debut album "Dear", I was not disappointed. They all shared the same raw, pure quality. Many of the tracks have a sombre tone, most having been inspired by a relationship that soured, one which Henson was heavily invested in. Unrequited love is a well hashed theme of so many songs, but Henson's brutal honesty and articulate lyrics makes everything feel very fresh. Critics of his music are quick to tar his albums as a "depression session", but I feel this is an oversimplification. Sadness can often have a certain beauty.
When Henson released his third album last year, I was taken aback to discover it was orchestral. I expected not to like it as much as his two former albums, but was pleasantly surprised to find it is equally as beautiful, equally as moving. I travelled to London to an intimate gig in which Henson performed songs from "Romantic Works" and was moved to tears (it was the smoke machine, I swear!) Two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to see him perform in the National Concert Hall in Dublin, where Henson performed songs spanning his three albums and I genuinely think I have a new found appreciation of life! Hehehe! I joke, but it was seriously intense, an amazing night. What makes Henson even more special, is that he suffers from acute anxiety and stage fright; he is unassuming about the immense talent he has and appears to be such an authentic person. He writes and creates for the love of his music and art, not for the fame or the capital. Below are a collection of images inspired by my favourite lyrics from his songs, unedited; just natural like his music :)
Miss your small hands in the palm of mine,
The fact they're good at making,
Miss you sitting up incessantly
And the fact you're always waking in the night
Work to leave some part of you on this earth
There's something about the simplicity of this lyric that just sticks. It says a lot in just a few words. To me, it could mean simply leaving a legacy of kindness. To leave a legacy of kindness is an amazing thing and should never be underrated. Kindness has such wonderful ramifications, it radiates out from a person which is why this image is inspired by the lyric.
Hold me tight in your arms, give me glimmers of hope,
Do not love me though
One of my favourite of Henson's songs, "Strawbear" articulates the difficulties of allowing oneself to be fully loved, or perhaps committing to someone who you don't truly love. The speaker assumedly sees himself as a teddy bear, unable to be fully functioning in the relationship. The metaphor used is very clever as the teddy connotes affection and warmth, yet it is not a sentient being and cannot reciprocate the love given to it.
My body's weak,
Feel my lungs giving up on me,
I'm worried it might just be
Something my soul needs
Like the two intertwined branches, sometimes you can get inextricably linked to a person. You build such a connection to them that they almost become a part of you. They become a necessity rather than just a desire.
Does his love make your head spin?
Of all Henson's songs, this seems the most personal. It addresses the new man of the woman who he was in love with. It's mournful and pining, but at the same time accepting and not spiteful. It's heart-breaking as he details how well he knew her and how much he loved her.
This stunning piece of music is my favourite track from Henson's orchestral album. It has a slow build and becomes very uplifting. Anytime I listen to it, I become quite reflective. To me, the song is about growth and positivity, about moving upwards.
I do hope you have enjoyed this week's post. Thank you so much for reading (well done if you made it to the end!)