The Playlist: John Grant
What is it about John Grant's music that makes it so good? I have been listening to his 2013 album Pale Green Ghosts constantly and it still feels fresh.
The lyrics, to begin with, are brilliant. Many of them meet in long stream of consciousness-style, self-aware sentences that describe feelings, situations and possibilities in earnest detail.
Back then I often found myself / Driving on the road at night, / And the radio was broadcasting the ocean. / Warm late Spring wind whips through my hair. / I am right here, but I wanna be there, / And no one in this world is gonna stop me. Pale Green Ghosts
The harmonies are simple (though definitely not simple in the all-too-obvious, one dimensional way that chart toppers often are) but utterly brilliant. Listen to the way the chorus of Pale Green Ghosts (below) resolves. Also, interestingly, Sinead O'Conner provides backing vocals for GMF (below).
The rhythms make many of the songs danceable on top of their deep meanings. Always a plus. This album is actually more electronica-inspired than the 2010 album, Queen of Denmark, which is also great incidentally.
His voice is strong and distinctive and, perhaps most importantly, full of utterly believable conviction.
The instrumentation is varied. One minute some flutes are cutting through a guitar sound, the next synths are controlling things with backup from wood blocks and brass.
Hailing from Michigan, John Grant transformed himself from a life of substance abuse to music-making through forming a band, The Czars, with Chris Pearson and others and then recording as a solo artist after the band split in 2004. The singer's journey has taken him to Colorado and then New York, London, Berlin and, most recently, Iceland – all some of my favourite places in the world.
"I’d take the I-25, between Denver and Boulder, which was lined with all these Russian olive trees, which are the pale green ghosts of the title: they have this tiny leaves with silver on the back, which glow in the moonlight,' explains Grant when talking about the album and its title track. 'The song is about wanting to get out of a small town, to go out into the world and become someone and made my mark."
Pale Green Ghosts is a fantastic album – go away and listen to it. It will improve your life. It will. And, to quote John, 'you could be laughing 65 per cent more of the time'.
If you like this, why not try:
• The Playlist: George Ezra
• Anna Calvi, Bath Komedia
• The Playlist: Vance Joy