Reviewed by James Lavender
It is not unreasonable to say that even at this early stage of the year, the debut album from Buckinghamshire singer-songwriter Jack Garratt is one of the most eagerly anticipated albums in British pop music.
He has already topped the BBC’s Sound of 2016, won the Critics’ Choice BRIT Award and probably received a whole lot of other accolades, all before the release of his debut album. We have seen plenty of artists like this before who get an incredible amount of build-up by fans and critics before the release of that all-important first album, with Years and Years and Jessie J being examples of this, and as we have seen, the future success and longevity of a music career is not always guaranteed (does anyone know what BBC Sound of 2005 The Bravery are up to now?)
As this website has already attested to, Garratt is a haunting, yet incredibly engaging live act. Like any musical act in the history of popular music, the key to Garratt’s future success is taking that successful live formula and replicating it on this album. To a certain extent Garratt achieves this. The album’s production values are slick and intricate, like his ‘Jack of all traits’ instrument playing. Songs like ‘Coalesce (Synesthesia Pt. II)’ and ‘Breath Life’ are cool, sleek anthems which can bring together fans of Disclosure and Ed Sheeran. One of Garratt’s main influences is urban dance music. You hear it in ‘Far Cry’, with its heavy synths and R’n’B influences, and in the dubstep basslines of ‘Surprise Yourself’ and ‘Chemical’, which also features distorted vocals. These are songs that will go down well at house parties. If you are feeling in a more emotional mood however, there are more ballad-orientated songs which are staples of his live sets such as the haunting ‘The Love You’re Given’ and mournful love song ‘Worry’.
So it is a well-produced, strong debut with something to please everyone on it, so why don’t I feel more passionate about this album? Perhaps it’s because there is a lack of warmth about it in most of the songs. In Garratt’s live performances, the seriousness of the songs was always off-set by his warm and engaging nature with the audience. This can’t be helped of course; you listen to an album to hear the songs, not the banter which goes on in between performances, but it still leaves me with the impression that Garratt has taken himself too seriously with this album and that in order to have a truly long and successful career, he needs to communicate the warmth of his personality across to his audience on his records as well as his live performances.
3 out of 5