Album of the week: Jack Garratt - Phase: firing and pinging on all cylinders
We’ve been here before. Young man, tender falsetto, atmospheric, late-night minimalist electronica? James Blake has a lot to answer for. The stakes are uncommonly high for Jack Garratt, too; the 24-year-old Buckinghamshire man already has a lot riding on his debut album, mostly because he follows in the footsteps of acts who have gone on to achieve big things after winning the BBC Sound of 2016 and the BRIT Critics’ Choice Award (Sam Smith, Adele, Ellie Goulding et al).
To give him some credit, there is more substance to Garratt than many of his peers who have trod a similar line. Having previously dabbled in blues music but abandoned his burgeoning career because of a lack of emotional connection with the songs, his relatively newfound love of electronic music is much more becoming of him. Phase is a striking debut album, using melody and rhythm in a creative manner that brings something new to the genre, instead of tired re-hashes of the same song 12 times. Opener Coalesce sets out his stall with an otherworldly glitter and grime rotation; Far Cry puts his soulful falsetto to tender use before imploding in a haze of zooming club beats, while the layered harmonies of I Know All What I Do sounds like a folk standard, deconstructed and pieced back together via a horror film soundtrack.
Indeed, many of Garratt’s songs sound like sketches drawn from other genres – soul, pop, and on standout track Weathered, even choral hymns – but for the most part, they are clean segues. True, his often lovelorn lyrics (“If you won’t take the love you’re given, then at least let me go”) tip into ‘maudlin’ and ‘self-pitying’ on occasion, but with so much going on musically, it’s a minor offence. Garratt may yet turn out to be flavour of the month, but he is firing and pinging on all cylinders for his debut album.