John Grant's Grey Tickles, Black Pressure: What You Need To Know
Since the demise of his former band The Czars in 2006, John Grant has released two critically-acclaimed solo albums in the form of 2010's Queen of Denmark and 2013's Pale Green Ghosts, both of which exhibit his unique talent for deeply emotive and brutally honest songwriting. Witty, caustic and often self-deprecating, Grant's lyrics bear the scars of a man who has battled through addiction and illness, with a knack for turning personal pain into hauntingly beautiful songs.
Today he releases his third solo album, the oddly-titled Grey Tickles, Black Pressure (you can preview and purchase it on the right-hand side of the page), on which Grant himself says he wanted to be “angrier and moodier.” Here's everything you need to know about it...
A little background...
After recording Pale Green Ghosts in the chilly climate of Iceland's capital city, Reykjavik, where the singer-songwriter now lives, Grant returned to his native US to record Grey Tickles, Black Pressure, recording the majority of the new album in Dallas, Texas - the same state where he recorded his debut solo offering, Queen of Denmark. That title, incidentally, comes from the literal translation of two phrases – one in Icelandic, one in Turkish - the first an allusion to reaching middle-age, the second to suffering from nightmares.
The months in between also saw the release of his live concert with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra in December last year, before the first teaser for the new album (featuring Grant covered in blood and wielding a Croquet mallet) emerged on his Youtube channel. This was followed by the album's first single, 'Disappointing' which finds Grant treading back into the electro-house territory that first emerged on his last LP.
Who's producing it?
This time around Grant has elected to work with John Congleton, the Grammy-winning producer whose recent stints behind the recording desk include St. Vincent's brilliant self-titled LP, as well as albums by a diverse list of artists that takes in everyone from Sigur Ros and David Byrne to The Roots and Erykah Badu.
Any special guests?
On 'Disappointing', vocal duties are shared between Grant and Everything But The Girl's Tracey Thorn, while there are also appearances from Dresden Dolls' Amanda Palmer and former Siouxsie and the Banshees drummer Budgie, but otherwise it's all Grant.
What does it sound like?
Stylistically, the album is a bit of a melting pot; the title track could sit comfortably alongside something by the Beach Boys, while songs like 'Disappointing' and 'You and Him' are firmly at home on the dancefloor. Elsewhere there are moody ballads like 'Global Warming' and the icy 'Geraldine', but there are also slices of funk and wonky electronica on tracks like 'Snug Slacks' and 'Black Blizzard'. Despite Grant's assertion that he would be 'moodier' on this record though, it isn't as mournful as you might expect – in fact, there are moments that are positively uplifting, but this is John Grant after all and it has to be said that even these are tinged with a sense of brooding melancholy.
Does it deliver?
If you've enjoyed Grant's last two albums, Grey Tickles, Black Pressure will not disappoint. He continues to wrestle with his music in a way that always sounds like he's really suffering for his art, but this is as challenging and relentlessly restless an album as anything he's done. Some of the tracks are growers, for sure, but there's instant gratification too from tunes like 'Disappointing', which will worm its way into your head on first listen and refuse to budge.
John Congleton has really brought the best out of Grant here and – dare we say it – he even sounds like he's enjoying himself, something we wouldn't begrudge of a man that has been through more than most in recent years. Maybe that's because he's finally found happiness in love and in his adopted Icelandic home, but whatever the reason, it's helped him deliver another very strong record that will please existing fans and earn him some new ones too.
John Grant's new album Grey Tickles. Black Pressure is out now.