John Grant – Pale Green Ghosts

Many great albums came out in 2010 but one that seemed to come out of nowhere and enter the consciousness was the sublime ‘Queen of Denmark’ the Midlake produced debut solo record from former Czars main man John Grant. A troubled past, some wilderness years and a backlog of ideas propelled the record forward making it at first a cult hit before it started to break a little into the mainstream. So it is with high expectation I go into ‘Pale Green Ghosts’ his second this time produced by Gus Gus’ Birgir Þórarinsson. If you loved his debut then you will no doubt love this, Grant still oozes wit, charm and continues to address similar demons as before. The record itself, as expected, is slightly more electronic in places but still manages to contain orchestral flurries, eighties synths, piano interludes and, as the final song ‘Glacier’ will attest to, the sublimely epic. Grant’s voice veers also from deep baritone to beautiful highs and on ‘Black Belt’ he sounds like a less psychedelic MGMT in his delivery. On first listen I thought ‘GMF’ was a little too tongue in cheek but its charms grew on me and it still raises a smile every time I hear the lines ‘Half of the time I think I’m in some movie, I play the underdog of course, I wonder who they’d get to play me, maybe they could dig up Richard Burton’s corpse’. It is of course a loaded line, Burton paralleling Grant’s past misdemeanours, but it is still darkly humorous, which, like his first album, is one of the records strengths. Because no matter how low Grant has been and how much he is exploring his dark past it doesn’t always feels maudlin and like Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields he knows how to craft a balance between the light and dark, the real and the absurd. ‘Why Don’t You Love Me Anymore’ one of the three songs where Grant is backed by Sinéad O’Connor is as powerful and moving as anything you’ll hear this year as is ‘Ernest Borgnine’ where Grant addresses his recent diagnosis with HIV. It all sounds heavy and in the wrong hands could have played out that way but Grant has crafted eleven beautifully different, clever and honest songs. I hope, like in his own words, he ‘gets to sing for lovely people all over this lovely world’ for a long time to come.

john grant

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