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Kindly Now
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  • After a second album of fragile confessionals in 2013's Birthdays, Keaton Henson released a collection of instrumentals with cellist Ren Ford called Romantic Works. He followed that with a more experimental, partly electronic record that he released under the alias Behaving. Kindly Now picks up where Birthdays left off, with a mix of sparse singer/songwriter fare and lusher chamber pop. "Comfortable Love" even offers a rock-ballad entry with more conventional drums and guitar. The opening "March," however, transitions from his Behaving album, with glitchy edits of vocal tracks, natural sound recordings, guitar, piano, and various members of the orchestra. Later, "Gabe" uses percussive objects, indistinct vocal tracks, and a similar variety of instruments for a more experimental quasi-instrumental. Another surprising track is "Holy Lover," a half a cappella piece with harmonized rounds professing love. Electric guitars and drums eventually join in before falling away again to expose vocals. The majority of the album, however, is a raw -- vocally and lyrically -- Henson accompanied by piano and occasional strings. One such song, "Old Lovers in Dressing Rooms," recounts a conversation with one that got away. Henson's shaky, eventually disconsolate voice recalls both sides of an interaction that included "We tell stories and we sort of laugh/Then she jokes she wants my autograph" and "Did you love me like the way you wrote?/Well, I'm afraid so." The variety of instrumentation and the rare unorthodox entry provide some balance and relief to what would otherwise be a relentlessly bleak affair. "The Pugilist," while intimate, gathers buzzing noise, woodwinds, strings, guitar, and voices into a whirlwind near the end as Henson promises "I still have art in me yet." ~ Marcy Donelson
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