Keaton Henson
Monument


4.5
superb

Review

by Mathias CONTRIBUTOR (48 Reviews)
October 27th, 2020 | 22 replies


Release Date: 10/23/2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: I give up - I'm going to live if it kills me.

Monument, somewhat ironically, begins with a song of self-reflection. “Ambulance” has a theme that is becoming increasingly common, one of an entertainer’s cry for help being ignored as he becomes an object of fan worship. Although a slower-paced song, “Ambulance” is also Keaton’s most catchy work since his debut album “Dear”, adding an additional level of irony, as lyrics describing a broken man are hidden behind a hummable tune. “Ambulance” also has a darkly acerbic quality as the album progresses. it discusses Keaton’s metaphorical death in regards to his art, all while he is quite literally dealing with the death. More specifically, the death of his father, who passed away from a years long bout with cancer just two days before Keaton finished recording Monument. “Ambulance” introduces the album with a more palatable discussion of death and grieving, an appetizer of a song that prepares the listener for a sobering look at the grieving process and an ode to Keaton’s father.

Keaton has admitted that many of the songs that made this album were not necessarily meant to be heard by any sort of audience. Monument is a quiet piece of work with a few impactful exceptions, but the raw emotions on display still make Monument a deeply rich and engaging album. “Self-Portrait” displays intricate guitar work backing Henson’s tale of living day-to-day with the task of embracing one’s own mortality. This simple style describes a number of songs throughout the album, such as “Career Day” and “Bed”. However, even though nearly every song follows the same pattern of hushed vocals singing of death and loss backed by some intricately picked guitars, Henson manages to keep the entire listen engaging due to small, crucial details. This is an album where the periods of silence are a crucial part of the music and where slight changes in dynamic tell a story in themselves. Masterful composition has created moments where a gradual shift from piano to mezzopiano and then down to pianissimo can occur in seconds but contain multitudes. One of the most impactful moments on the album is the four seconds of near-silence that come in “Bed”, with those seconds signifying the exact moment of death for Keaton’s father. No words need to be sung, no instruments need to be played - The silence speaks for itself.

With that being said, the moments where the compositions do break loose manage to create incredibly moving moments. Third track “Ontario” is the first song that provides us with a full band backing, fitting the theme of the song, which describes Henson feeling something for the first time in a long time as he is travelling through the coldness of Canada. “While I Can'' is the most anthemic that Keaton gets on the album, while “Husk” is a rich, dreamy waltz. “While I Can” is particularly interesting within the theme of the album, as it has Henson declaring ”I wanna love you while”, backed by saxophone and a driving beat. “While I Can” is the song that is most likely to be interpreted as being about hope, but it appears to be more indignant than hopeful. “While I Can” is about how life goes on even after tragedy, but it is mostly about how that tragedy will shape every single day for the rest of your life. “Husk” is a perfect companion piece to “While I Can”, as it is about the betrayal of time. The more time that is spent consumed in grief turns into less time that we have to continue living our lives after tragedy, even knowing that that grief will be with us constantly. These songs are not necessarily about hope or trying to move on - They are about facts of life.

In the middle of Monument comes “Prayer”, the emotional focal point of the album. “Prayer” is a song in two parts, beginning with piano and Keaton’s vocals and transitioning into a swell of strings. The song is also Keaton mourning his father in the most direct manner found on the album. The chorus is simply Keaton singing ”Speak up/Speak up/I’m losing you/I’m losing you, clearly on the verge of tears. The song reflects on the fact that, even after years of preparation, nothing can you prepare you for loss. As the strings swell, background noise from a home video enters the fray, with largely inaudible voices behind the orchestrations. As the strings fade, the song ends with one line, clear as day, from the home recording.

Keaton - Wave to daddy!

This is the part of the review where I share that I lost my father just three weeks ago. It was a sudden heart attack the day after my 24th birthday. This is, of course, very different from the process that Keaton went through with his father’s cancer. Nevertheless, the outcome was the same for the both of us - Indescribable, immeasurable loss. This album will, of course, conjure thoughts of Carrie and Lowell or A Crow Looked At Me, but Monument approaches the topic of death in a much different lens, speaking largely in prose and metaphor, with specific details of Keaton’s father breaking through occasionally. While Monument is, without mistake, deeply personal to Keaton and his experience, it is also an incredibly universal album, whether someone has shared a similar pain or not. Death is as much of a part of the human experience as living is and Keaton has perfectly captured the emotions that accompany experiencing death in your life.

But you much like I, don't know where
When we die we will go
So we cling, desperate fingers
Onto life
And we'll all miss you to death
When you go




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user ratings (19)
3.7
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
dmathias52
Contributing Reviewer
October 27th 2020


1476 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Dead dad review #2. If you'd like some more context, check my most recent Darlingside review. I wasn't going to talk about my dad in this, but here we are anyway. I'll be honest in saying this isn't my best review and there are a million words I want to say about this album, but that I couldn't put into words. Luckily Keaton put them into words for me. I normally write about an artist with their last name, but this felt too personal, so we went first-name basis.



Miss you dad.

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
October 27th 2020


3523 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Adored reading this Mathias, beautiful work. I'm sorry for your loss and I hope you get through this. Absolute biggest love.

SowingSeason
Moderator
October 27th 2020


36303 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

My dad had a heart attack when I was 25 and he survived, I can't imagine what losing him then would have done to me emotionally. Your last two reviews have been beautiful tributes, hope your writing is somehow as cathartic to you as it is moving to read. Love the summary you chose as well. I've never listened to Henson somehow, but I'm spinning it now and am thoroughly impressed/depressed.

Digging: ManDancing - The Good Sweat

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
October 28th 2020


22298 Comments


Perfect summary and lovely write-up. I hope you are starting to feel a bit better. I love Keaton's feature in the last Unkle album but could never get into his solo stuff because of how depressive and fragile it was, but will give this one a try.

Digging: King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard - K.G.

Scoot
October 28th 2020


20263 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

this is great stuff

Winesburgohio
Staff Reviewer
October 28th 2020


3016 Comments


what a pleasure to read. my sincerest condolences

Digging: 12million - Nobody (with Chief Keef)

AsleepInTheBack
Contributing Reviewer
October 28th 2020


6712 Comments


lovely write up. so, so sorry for your loss.

Pheromone
October 28th 2020


9466 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I had no idea he had anything new coming out



excited to check

Digging: Joeyfat - The House of the Fat

Pheromone
October 28th 2020


9466 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

amazing write up also x

Pheromone
October 28th 2020


9466 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

earth weary twin, baby, don't let me in

im afraid im ablaze with the people I've been




ah this is so beautiful - i can completely understand how this resonates with you dmath, like a warm hug in an impossible time - the ending of prayer is heartbreaking and remarkable



probably my favourite of his since dear

Josh D.
October 28th 2020


16207 Comments


I really like Romantic Works, but never checked anything else out. I'll have to fix this.

Pheromone
October 28th 2020


9466 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'd say check dear before you check this one

dmathias52
Contributing Reviewer
October 28th 2020


1476 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks for the kind words all and for the folks who have been checking in with me the past few weeks. It still hurts, but writing and music and the support all helps greatly.

I'm gonna echo what Pheromone said and recommend people check Dear, as that's probably his most accessible and arguably best album. Birthdays is also incredible. This is probably my favorite of his, but there's obviously a personal connection. I don't think this is quite as downright depressing as some of his past work (if you want to feel hopeless, listen to Birthdays), but it is equally bleak.

Pheromone
October 29th 2020


9466 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

ugh the ending of prayer is gutwrenching

dmathias52
Contributing Reviewer
October 29th 2020


1476 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I think Prayer might be his best song honestly. Every single piece of it is perfect

Pheromone
October 29th 2020


9466 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

its insanely gorgeous - the centerpiece of the album easily - i think im almost inclined to agree though I prefer a few from Dear, I think Prayer is his opus. With the awful stuff you're going through also, I can imagine the song has been a welcome addition. It is heartbreaking

Pheromone
October 29th 2020


9466 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

put it on just then - the ending of the song ;_;

Surtur
October 30th 2020


586 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

His best since Dear imo



The ending to Prayer brought me very close to tears, which really doesn't happen to me much with music lmao

Pheromone
November 4th 2020


9466 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Dear being without review is blasphemous



this could very well end up being a 4, it's been comforting me since I first heard it

Pheromone
November 4th 2020


9466 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

must you be leaving so soon, so soon, so soon, oh?

i was just falling for you, for you, for you

im sorry im late, i was ablaze

i was just starting on hoping you'd stay

must you be leavin' so soon, soon?




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