20 hours ago
Listen to love is magic, john grant’s fourth solo record released exactly three years after the last, and you experience his customary level of brutal honesty, irresistible vulnerability and wit – but with the electronics dialled way up.
the sound is razor sharp: deep, rib-shaking synths and tingling sequencers mix with punchy percussion and feather-like melodies. and, as you’d expect, the words don’t take a back seat in this ‘80s-inspired soundscape; it wouldn’t be a john grant record without his signature storytelling.
little can prepare you for the sonic assault of the first minute of opening track “metamorphosis." arcade game meets rap meets ring master showmanship, it’s a surreal and disturbing list of phrases and questions – “earthquakes, forest fires, hot brazilian boys” and “who created isis?” – all delivered in various straight and novelty versions of grant’s speaking voice. within seconds, this morphs into a sultry, reflective dream ballad about not having properly mourned the death of a loved one – and then back again. you’re disorientated and intrigued. you’ve been warned.
his humour is evident even in the track listings: “preppy boy” precedes “smug cunt”. the former is a digital disco come-on, complete with seductive funk twang with winks and nudges a-plenty; the chorus begs, "come on now, pretty boy/ if you’ve got an opening, i am unemployed". the latter is darker – even though it starts off scathingly describing the subject’s obsession with their own chest hair, it turns into a question of control and entitlement: “you don’t want things you cannot own."
towards the end of the album, slower and softer songs “is he strange” and “the common snipe” sit still and powerful next to the beats and bleeps of neighbouring songs. if grant’s talking to his younger self in “is he strange”, it’s with palpable warmth, openness, and a degree of comfort with who he is now.
somehow stories that are deeply personal and unique to grant become relatable life lessons. the specificity of the lyrics and the boldness of the electronic orchestration should preclude this – but grant lets the emotions that drive them show through enough that you can’t help but connect.