By Khalea Robertson
Indie darling Jack Garratt first made his way into my consciousness when he was featured as part of the Burberry Acoustic Youtube series in 2014. There, it was just a boy and his piano. His voice and visible passion captured me and I had to find out more. Little did I expect to find out that it was not just a boy and his piano, but rather a boy and a plethora of instruments, with a particular fondness for synthesizers, looking to carve out a his own little niche in the Electronic R&B subgenre. Phase is Garratt’s debut full length album and having been crowned the winner of BBC’s Sound of 2016 poll, he has some hefty expectations to live up to.
Garratt claims to not be catering to the clubbing scene, but with nightlife’s proclivity for electronic music driven by prominent bass and frenetic drum machines, it’s hard not to imagine the majority of this album fitting perfectly in that environment. Allowing him the benefit of the doubt, what he may have been suggesting is that he puts some effort into mixing that sound with sensitive, sometimes sweet lyrics about the ups and downs of love, not just laying mindless choruses atop techno tracks. He does manage a fairly even blend on some tracks such as Worry and The Love You’re Given (my personal favourite), in which he also shows off his rather impressive falsetto. Special mention also to Surprise Yourself, a very radio ready record (with almost a hint of One Direction – make of that what you will) that combines gentle vocals with a rousing chorus.
Yet I found myself developing a certain fondness for the moments where he dialled back the production elements a bit and let his inner coffee shop singer-songwriter take centre stage. I Know All What I Do is a simple tug at the heartstrings that ends way too quickly while making you reconsider that long-standing animosity that you may have held for the drone of bagpipes. It got me thinking that although Garratt may enjoy experimenting with his assortment of electronic production tools, and don’t get me wrong, he does it well, I would enjoy a purely acoustic album from him just as much or probably even more. And the only thing the closing track, My House Is Your Home, did was cement that belief. It is an utterly gorgeous understated piano ballad that seems to have been recorded live and at its climax, is full of the rawness of a Gospel performance.
From what I have seen online, Garratt seems to thrive off of being live on stage, using that adrenaline to push him to create something unique for each audience, constantly reworking his own music. I am absolutely buzzing to see what he brings to the LCR on April 21st.
Image from MTV