Another year, another surfeit of timorous records made by introspective male singer-songwriters. But sitting somewhere in the melancholy hinterland between Bon Iver, Perfume Genius and Elliot Smith, Keaton Henson’s fragile and trembling vocals, coupled with his shimmeringly beautiful musical backdrops, mark out the man in the upper echelons of this bloated genre pool. This is the second record from the performance-averse Londoner, and it’s a thing of quiet beauty and subtle power. ‘You’ is awash with strings which swell with a gut-wrenching energy, alongside a violin part which quickens the pulse while it breaks your heart. ‘Don’t Swim’, by contrast, almost knocks you off your feet when it explodes from an acoustic introduction into violent, amplified life; a forty-second blast of pure noise. ‘Kronos’ is similarly turbulent, and it’s this contrast to the lonely quietude of the rest of the album which elevates ‘Birthdays’ to genuine greatness.

Read all of our new album reviews here, in this month’s Loud And Quiet

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