English musician Keaton Henson released an EP titled Fragments EP on August 27, 2021. Henson is also a visual artist and a poet. I first discovered his music in 2013 and have yet to dislike anything he’s created.
Something about his music is magical. By pressing play you are coaxed into the deepest parts of your mind and are almost forced to allow yourself to open up. This is why I have kept up with Henson’s releases for the past 8 years. Within the first track of each album I am enthralled.
On his website, the description for Fragments EP says: “The eight tracks that form the EP orbit a sweeping kaleidoscope of sonic shapes, shades and textures. Keaton’s voice offers lyrics in an almost frozen romanticism. It’s a voice that sounds rooted in turmoil but also of strength. A happy sadness. Bleakly beautiful.”
Fragments EP is a companion piece to his previous album, Monument, an album about loss. Specifically the loss of his father. Monument not only depicted the feeling of intense grief, but of catharsis. Lyrically his new EP strayed away from Monument’s themes but they’re connected in sound.
The lead single “Limb” signaled the transition from the subject matter of Monument to the melancholic love songs Henson is known for. “Limb” is a paradox: “I will tear the fingers from my hands to feel you / Like a suitcase I will fold my spine and leave you.”
Henson frequently contradicts himself in his lyrics, showing that the love he reached for was unobtainable.
Track four, “Marionette,” is the first collaboration Henson has ever included in one of his own projects. It features Julien Baker, and the ethereal combination of their voices exceeded my expectations. Both artists have mastered emotion and know how to keep listeners hanging on to every line, craving more even when the song’s finished.
I find it necessary to make note of the softness of Henson’s music. The primary focus is not production, but the story he has to tell. He allows us to hear every crack and shake in his voice. It is gentle and imperfect and it’s real.
“For Kiran” concluded the EP with a message to Henson’s old friend, Kiran, who passed away a few years ago. The song described his funeral.
The last verse said: “I am so sorry I let you down when / The world was so clearly choking you out / When the life I was leading kept me away / Oh my dearest, that cannot be you in that grave there.”
“For Kiran” brought me to tears. I can’t relate to what Henson was going through when he wrote the song, but he described it so vividly, we can feel everything he felt.
Listening to Keaton Henson is not an uplifting experience, but it’s worthwhile. He is the first artist I recommend to anybody.