By Meredith Dunham
Keaton Henson’s fourth studio album, Kindly Now, ebbs and flows through the mechanisms of intimacy and modern relationships. The album explores the individual and their analysis of emotion: self-indulgence, self-awareness, self-destruction. Henson uses the album to explore the pain wrought by romantic relationships and the way one is so prone to accept this desolation time and time again, as if it is something enjoyable. Each of the songs on the album delve into various standpoints on tolerating this pain and reflections on heartache. Some, like “How Could I Have Known,” discuss the inability to love someone enough, while others, like “The Pugilist,” confront the fear of solitude and the challenge we face when we recognize the feeling of being truly alone. Utterly raw with emotion, the album forces the listener to confront their own rendition of heartache head on.
“Comfortable Love” explores what it means to love—both the rapture and the suffering— and to understand the intoxicating pleasure we find in the discomfort of it all. Slow and dreamlike melodies intertwine with core-shaking lyrics, driving the listener into a mist of self-awareness.
As the album progresses, the melodic prose strikes a new level of relatability, seducing the listener to surrender to Henson’s soft, appeasing voice. Henson addresses this idea that one may be beguiled by love more often than not; he suggests that perhaps the only thing one can do is to dissociate entirely from intimacy.
In “No Witnesses,” Henson confronts a past love affair, speaking softly: “So I’ll leave matches in our hotel room / I hope to burn away the sight of you.” Henson explores the idea of voluntarily losing ourselves in romantic—or even platonic—partners, as if pain is consciously sought out, questioning repeatedly in “Good Lust,” “Can I get lost in you?”
Finally, in “How Could I Have Known,” Henson conveys that love is often taken for granted; the unparalleled value of relationships being underestimated. A slower tempo closes the album, leaving the listener at peace. Overall, the album serves as an exposition of organic and profound emotion. Slow piano melodies lull the listener into a peaceful sense of comfort, while upbeat and repetitive choruses shake. Henson urges the listener to expose their inner most discomforts, and appreciate the painful emotions for what they are: the very bedrock of humanity. Essentially, Kindly Now is the type of album that breaks your heart all over again, and oddly enough, you’ll let it.