Jack Garratt – Love, Death and Dancing
Jack Garratt enjoyed the double-edged sword of very big hype very early on his career, being awarded both the Sound of… and the Brit’s Critic’s Choice awards in 2016: a feat that has formerly marked the start of Adele’s, Ellie Goulding’s and Sam Smith’s careers. A somewhat lacklustre sales performance from his debut album, Phrase, seems to have prompted some soul-searching and a three-year hiatus. A tentative second album was completely scrapped for not being good enough, and the performer, always prone to anxiety, struggled with the weight of expectations. Following the abandoned album, Garratt met with Irish producer Jacknife Lee, who has writing, mixing and/or producing credits on artists as big and diverse as REM, The Killers, Neil Diamond and Bat for Lashes.
The album sounds like the inside of an overwhelmed mind: addressing sadness not from a slow and subdued point of view but with a loud, mixed-up and overblown aesthetic. It’s an interesting approach. The dissonance between the confident music and fragile, vulnerable lyrics highlights how personal the album is.
Opener Time was chosen by Annie Mac in February as her “Hottest Record”. A glitchy, scattering backing track with deceptively simple bass punctuation creates something exciting mixed with Garratt’s titanium melody writing. The lyrics mix introspection and hope (“Time is on your side”). This is followed by the lovely, spacious Mara. Another highlight, this again mixes a driving, glitchy backing track with Celtic folk influenced melody and vocals. It’s impossible not to be drawn in.
Circles and Better are full of ideas and sonic experimentation. Anyone is a particular highlight, arresting and different. Lo-fi funk music and falsetto gasps are mixed with a stellar chorus of roaring self-doubt as he asks: “How can I accept your love when I don’t even trust myself?” It sounds like early Prince suffering an uncharacteristic attack of self-doubt.
Garratt can write unimpeachable pop melodies and his voice is the kind of rich and emotion-soaked tenor that wants to take you by the hand and lead you through his melodies and his mind. However, not all of the songs work as well as Anyone does: She Will Lay My Body on the Stone is a neo-soul/blues tune that has been done many times before, and closer Only the Bravest could be stronger. But the album works best when experimentation is allowed to come the fore. This is the sound of depression rendered danceable.
Photo: Jake Wangner
Love, Death and Dancing is released on 12th June 2020. For further information or to order the album visit Jack Garratt’s website here.
Watch the video for Better here: