BEST NEW INDIE: KEATON HENSON - THE PUGILIST
“The Pugilist,” the second offering from Keaton Henson’s third album, Kindly Now, is a bonafide, Grade-A punch to the gut. We Are: The Guard is here to find out what makes this indie folk track more than meets the ears.
For four minutes, “The Pugilist” draws upon the angst and insecurities of being a performer with an audience to please. The instrumental appears to take a backseat, as the main focus is put upon the emotionally-charged lyrics and delivery. When he gets to “You’re Enough,” Henson has a cathartic moment, repeating the line twice more with noticeable sadness, almost trying to reassure himself. However, the audible shaking in his vocals tells us that it is a battle he might be losing.
KEATON HENSON - THE PUGILIST
Quite candidly, Henson reveals, “I need to be loved.” A presence of ego in the craft of making music is rooted in self-centeredness and making what the musician deems fitting. Ironically, there is a constant need for reaffirmation and appreciation from the masses, almost acting as a commentary in the age of social media and instant gratification. His true fear is unearthed as the pleas of “Don’t Forget Me” is repeated two dozen times, and a final declaration of “I still have art in me yet” to conclude the song.
Not all modern folk is pop-chart-friendly, but “The Pugilist” is not easy-listening by any means. It is a piece that mimics cinematic tragedy, or a romance novel with a bummer of an ending. Admittedly, the truth in life sometimes hurts. Keaton Henson, most definitely, achieves this by a country mile.