It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted anything that could be described as beautiful, gorgeous, or fragile. I, like many other bloggers, publications, etc., have found myself drifting away from the neo-folk, for lack of a better term, that I had written about so often here over the past few years. As I drifted away from that genre, I found myself drifting back towards rock. Be it indie, alternative, or whatever other modifier you’d like to append to the genre. Rock music isn’t often described as beautiful, gorgeous, or fragile. “Alright” by Keaton Henson is not a rock song. “Alright” is as tender as they come.
Rock music can often be pummeling, aurally speaking. “Alright” is pummeling, but in an entirely different sense. It’s emotionally pummeling. Keaton Henson’s lyrics, soft vocals, and piano playing affects you in a way that only certain songs can. As a defense mechanism, humans are adept at neatly tucking away their negative emotions, such as anger, jealousy, fear, doubt, and sadness. By tucking these emotions away, we are able to go to sleep at night and wake up in the morning to do it all over again. Every so often, like a forest in need of burning, we need to purge ourselves of those repressed emotions. Songs like Keaton Henson’s “Alright” are vital because they act as that catharsis for us. Disclaimer, I am not overly masculine. However, I am unfamiliar with the feeling of “needing a good cry.” I don’t know if it’s a guy thing or not, but it’s a foreign concept to me. Songs like this are as close as I get.
I had intended to post something by Keaton Henson a few years ago, but never did for one reason or another. If you’re unfamiliar with his music, “Alright” isn’t the only song that quietly whispers, “I’m fragile.” So much of his music has that quality and it’s precisely that quality that makes it so beautiful. In fact, Keaton Henson himself is the physical embodiment of this fragility. He is rail thin and his singing voice is only slightly more audible than a whisper. When Henson played NPR’s Tiny Desk in 2013, NPR’s Robin Hilton wrote, “I asked everyone to get as close as they could, without freaking out the admittedly shy singer from London. Don’t let the presence of this fantastic recording (by our engineer Kevin Wait) fool you. Henson’s voice was so fragile and hushed, if you were 10 feet away you would have barely heard a peep from him.”
“Alright” does not have a chorus per se. However, each piano-backed verse swells and eventually crashes down in a flood of strings as Henson’s singing increases in both urgency and pace. This is where “Alright” does some of its best work. “You and I are monsters / We’ll not find another / Cannot be together / lest we eat each other / don’t make me leave,” Keaton sings. This may not describe my current relationship status (According to Facebook, “It’s Complicated”), but goddamn if this couldn’t have been applied to numerous relationships I had in the past.