Kindly Now left me in a trance. It made me want to give someone my soul, but also to seal myself away and shield my heart. I interpret this album as presenting a subtle concept of protecting yourself from the occassional harshness of love.
Henson’s lyrics suggest having lost a love and needing them back. In the song “The Pugilist,” he uses imagery to explain how his love had fixed and pulled him back together, but now they are gone and he needs that protection back. He begs, “Don’t forget me,” and claims that it is “the most honest thing” he has written. His approach to songwriting with childlike honesty is quite unlike other artists of today. He does not use metaphors or hide the truth in plain sight— he blatantly reverberates his aching soul to the world.
I would also like to pinpoint the song and music video for “Alright.” In the music video, Henson is on stage at a karaoke bar singing his own song. We see him as inebriated, singing about a lost love until the camera pans out and we see him bleeding out of his stomach. I thought this was a stunning display of the imagery of emotional pain. We all know true emotional pain is felt in the deep recesses of our bodily organs. This song is a direct reference, along with the album as a whole, to his unfaltering anxiety and depression. The lyrics, “Don’t make me go outside” resonate with anxiety. Henson is known for his lack of live performances due to this anxiety and this outlines his hesitation.
The use of ambient background sounds like rain, voices, and police sirens throughout the album reminds me of John Mayer’s “Heartbreak Warfare.” These noises represent the blurs of everyday life and how anxiety and depression can also swirl in the mess of things. This album was Henson’s way of therapy. Overall, this album is my go-to morning shower and daily reflection song. Keaton Henson makes me want to be honest.