Singer. Songwriter. Guitarist. Pianist. Percussionist. Producer. Performer. How many threats is that? You could try to break the UK’s Jack Garratt down into his constituent parts, or you could describe him like Aussie R&B singer Jarryd James did last fall – “He’s a freak.” Don’t you worry about it though, Jack. Jarryd meant it in the best possible way.
But this is all stuff we already knew. We talked to Jack Garratt after his show in Nashville back in August, so we already had high expectations for his new album Phase.
He did not disappoint.
Phase is a 19 song double-debut record. Six or seven of these had been released previously, either on old EP’s or as singles. While a 10 song record with six or seven “old” songs on it might seem a bit frustrating, a 19 song record still brings plenty of new material to the table. And if you haven’t been wearing out everything you’ve been able to get your ears on for the past nine months like I have, then this is probably not an issue at all. If you’ve never heard Jack Garratt before, then rejoice. You get to listen to “Weathered” for the first time. I’m Jealous.
I’d love to take you through every song, but I figure you have shit to do so I’ll try to get to the important points. I won’t talk about Garratt’s stellar vocal performance throughout the record. and how he utilizes his crazy range bringing emotion and grit. I won’t talk about his guitar playing, or his broad use of synth sounds. I won’t talk about this groovy thing he does throughout the record where he layers half-time feel and double-time feel over one another, switching between the two at will. I won’t talk about how crazy stupid awesome his new video “Chemical” is.
Instead I’m going to talk about the two things that really set this record apart. The first thing is micro: something present in all his songs. Jack Garratt is a superb arranger. His songs are paced immaculately. One of the biggest challenges with really any music, but especially electronic music, is getting a song to go somewhere. To not sound the same way the whole time. Jack Garratt’s songs are little journeys. His combination of different electronic sounds and styles gives him a broader scope than a lot of other artists. Elements of Hip Hop, R&B, Drum & Bass, Blues, Gospel, EDM, and dubstep give Garratt plenty of tools in his kit. His trick is that he’s constantly using all of them, pulling little things from each to combine into his own unique sound. Where another artist may come into the second verse with a little more going on, Garratt comes in with a totally different feel, and totally different synths, or guitar instead of piano. Combine this with Garratt’s ability to sing his absolute ass off, and his songs turn into those said journeys. You’re not sure where they’re going to go next, but you’re excited because you know they can go anywhere.
The second thing that stands Phase apart is macro: apparent when looking at it as a whole. Phase really is an album. While 18 Months by Calvin Harris is one of the best collections of pop songs ever created (I challenge anyone to debate that), that’s exactly what it is – a collection of songs. Phase is cohesive. Phase listens like a Jack Garratt song does. There’s change and excitement. It’s dynamic. But it’s also thematic. Love and loneliness. Worry. Hope. In a world of electronic music dominated by collaborations and remixes, Garratt brings something that is truly original, and quite personal. He took a huge amount of music, probably written over years, and blended it into a whole. There is a defined sound to the album, but the songs still stand apart from one another, and fill different roles. And coming out of it, I feel like I know something about Garratt.
Something other than the fact that he likes to make music that gets your booty movin’.