John Grant – 'Pale Green Ghosts' album review

A feat of honesty and intellect, as starkly beautiful as it's sad

0

Comments

Add +

John Grant – 'Pale Green Ghosts'

  • Rated as: 4/5

‘To say that I’m a man undone,’ sings John Grant on ‘Vietnam’, ‘is understatement at its worst’. He’s right – there are barely words to describe his day-to-day struggle with addiction, depression, unrequited love and his recent diagnosis as HIV positive. But on this second album, the Reykjavik-based, American singer manages a feat of honesty and intellect to find them.

Sometimes he turns his soft voice to histrionic metaphors – ‘Vietnam’ is so called because Grant’s lover’s scorn is like the biological weapon Agent Orange – though these are balanced against moments of self-aware humour, especially on the absurdly self-aggrandising ‘GMF’. Other times Grant simply lets it all spill out in unrestrained monologues that pull the listener into the role of  therapist.

But, like the Colorado trees that are referenced in its title, the album is as starkly beautiful as it’s sad. The bubbling electronic rhythms of Scandi-pop give Grant’s lyrics new edge and direction, but some tracks, including closer ‘Glacier’, revisit the lush, lonesome orchestration of his previous collaborators, Midlake. That song’s central metaphor is of an ice block of pain carving out a magnificent valley, and sums up the album’s unique appeal: even if Grant slides further into despair, his fans don’t have to come along for the ride, only enjoy the music he leaves in his wake.


Watch John Grant's 'Pale Green Ghosts' single video


Users say

0 comments

Listen to 'Pale Green Ghosts' on Spotify

Read more music features

The Time Out music quiz 2014

Test your knowledge of the year’s musical highlights, from Kanye and Kim to Kiesza and Kate Bush

The 50 best songs of 2014

Stick this playlist on repeat – it’s the very best new music of the last 12 months

The 30 best albums of 2014

Discover some great new music as we take a look back at this year’s top albums

The best new music of 2014: Findlay

The rising rock ’n’ roller from Manchester joins our rolling guide to the best new acts around

See all Time Out music features