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JOHN GRANT

John Grant

Boy From Michigan

    Produced by longtime friend Cate Le Bon, ‘Boy from Michigan’ is Grant’s most autobiographical and melodic work to date. Grant stopped being a boy in Michigan aged twelve, when his family moved to Denver, Colorado, shifting rust to bible belt, a further vantage point to watch collective dreams unravel. Across 12 tracks, Grant lays out his past for careful cross-examination. In a decade of making records by himself, he has playfully experimented with mood, texture and sound, all the better for actualizing the seriousness of his thoughts. At one end of his musical rainbow, he is the battle-scarred piano-man, at the other, a robust electronic auteur. ‘Boy from Michigan’ seamlessly marries both.

    With Le Bon at the helm, Grant pared back his zingers, maximizing the emotional impact of the melodies. A clarinet forms the bedrock of a song. One pre-chorus feels lifted from vintage Human League. There is a saxophone solo. ‘Boy from Michigan’ ultimately swings between ambient and progressive, calm and livid. The album’s narrative journey opens with Grant at his artistic prettiest, three songs drawn from his pre-Denver life (the Michigan Trilogy, as Grant calls them): the title track, “The Rusty Bull,” and “County Fair.” Each draws the listener in to a specific sense of place, before untangling its significance with a rich cast-list of local characters, often symbolizing the uncultivated faith of childhood.

    Elsewhere, tracks like “Mike and Julie” and “The Cruise Room” offer an affecting plunge deep into Grant’s late teenage years in Denver, while the midpoint of the album is highlighted by “Best in Me” and “Rhetorical Figure,” a pair of skittish, scholarly dance tunes that build on the lineage of Grant’s electropop heroes, Devo. Childhood as a horror narrative is the theme of “Dandy Star,” which observes a tiny Grant watching the Mia Farrow horror movie ‘See No Evil’ on an old family TV set, and finally on “The Only Baby” (released this January) Grant removes his razor blade from a pocket to cleanly slit the throat of Trump’s America, authoring a scathing epitaph to an era of acute national exposition.

    Though he has lived in Iceland since 2011 – the same year he was also diagnosed HIV-positive – Grant spent his childhood and formative years in the US and maintains US citizenship. Growing up, Grant was subjected to a deeply ingrained hatred of anyone perceived as homosexual at school. Following the demise of his first band The Czars, Grant left music entirely for over five years, only to achieve greater success as a solo artist (his acclaimed 2015 solo LP ‘Grey Tickles, Black Pressure’ went Top Five in the UK). Grant has sold out Royal Albert Hall, performed at Glastonbury, Latitude + more, and his song “Snug Snacks” was featured on Pitchfork's 'Songs That Define LGBTQ Pride'. BBC Radio 6 host Mary Anne Hobbs described Grant’s music: "Most songwriting, even if it's based on a true story ... is embellished in some way. But John's lyrics — they're so true they might as well be written in blood."

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    *** NPN - email mail@piccadillyrecords.com before 25 June 21 to be entered in the draw 

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    STAFF COMMENTS

    Barry says: Absolutely classic modern day John Grant this, filled with the wry self-deprecation and endlessly witty lyricism of Queen Of Denmark / Pale Green Ghosts era but swimming with the shimmering disco synths and snapping electronic groove of the more recent LP's. It's a PERFECT mix and is quite possibly his strongest outing to date. Another outstanding LP from this Piccadilly favourite.

    TRACK LISTING

    1. Boy From Michigan
    2. County Fair
    3. The Rusty Bull
    4. The Cruise Room
    5. Mike And Julie
    6. Best In Me
    7. Rhetorical Figure
    8. Just So You Know
    9. Dandy Star
    10. Your Portfolio
    11. The Only Baby
    12. Billy

    Ethan Gold Featuring John Grant

    Sway Lake

      Ethan Gold’s new double a-side 7’’ single from the film The Song Of Sway Lake is a limited edition talisman from a film about characters fixated with the past, and searching for old records in a grand lake house in the Adirondack Park.

      The inimitable John Grant sings the haunting, quiet moonlight Lost Record Version, arranged to sound like a small group of musicians in 1939 playing after midnight in a barn. His range as a vocalist brings a pathos and gravity that is timeless, utterly convincing as a 30s performance, filled with emotion and longing.

      English sisters trio The Staves sing the brassy daylight Big Band version, arranged as if it were a pop hit of 1947, all brash tight three-part harmonies, reflecting the razzle dazzle arrogance and exhuberance of post-War America. Swing your honey around the dance floor!

      Composed & Produced by Ethan Gold. Arrangements by Gina Leishman. Mixed by Flood.


      TRACK LISTING

      ‘Sway Lake (Lost Record Version) Ethan Gold Featuring John Grant
      ‘Sway Lake (Big Band Version) Ethan Gold Featuring The Staves

      It's been a hell of a recent past for John Grant, who, aside from getting the unquestionable delight of getting to see our faces every time he comes to Manchester (and us, his), has produced a superb album with Stephen Mallinder of Cab Voltaire and Wrangler fame under their collaborative moniker, 'Creep Show', and a string of live dates in the diary. All of this while recording his oft-teased new LP, 'Love Is Magic'. 

      'Metamorphosis' kicks things off, bringing together stabbing saw-waves and Grant's unmistakeable vocal acrobatics, tumbling atop off-piste melodic turns and new-beat percussives, setting a brilliantly warped precident before what may well be Grant's finest work to date in the stunning titular piece, 'Love Is Magic'. Treading familiar minor-key ground, we get a solemn but hopeful progression played out by stabbing synth lines and huge gated snare hits, covering all the sonic space necessary while keeping the mess down to a minimum and allowing John's voice to really shine before launching into the mindblowingly beautiful chorus (the vocal harmonies, attributed to Paul Denton of Midlake have an ethereal and dynamic momentum that is unmistakeable) and staggered but determined forward-thrust. 

      I could keep running through the tracks, but some of our readership would doubtless give up or expire before i'd finished blathering on, so i'll keep it to a few key points. 'Smug Cunt' while clearly filled with the wry venom we've come to know and love from Grant is an unimaginably deep cascade of dytopian synth pulses and resonant bass,  launching into a spine-tinglingly effective culmination of gloom and euphoria. 'He's Got His Mothers Hips' brings the camp disco vibes spectacularly, with a truncated snappy analogue bassline swirling around beneath the syncopated vox before exploding into a major key serotonin release in the hand-waving chorus. 

      Move on a little and the spoken-word commentary of 'Diet Gum' takes an admittedly hilarious step into the leftfield, perfectly illustrating JG's clever tongue-in-cheek sense of humour 'Did you really think you could seduce me in a leisure suit?... well.... fair enough' and captivating presence before bringing it back to the sublime with the tear-inducing majesty of 'Is He Strange'. Stunning piano and vocal harmonies meet together into the perfect storm of majesty and misery. The closing duo of 'The Common Snipe' and 'Touch And Go' are once again perfectly matched, with the minimalistic backline and flickering sample and hold synth lines peaking lightly behind the former, and the anthemic, rolling stagger of the latter closing off a stunning and career-defining collection. It's a testament to Grant's sphere of influence and ability as a songwriter and producer that so many influences can be absorbed into his sound without sounding forced or disjointed. A brilliantly melodic, heart-warmingly anomalous wonder.  

      STAFF COMMENTS

      Barry says: Once again, John Grant pulls out a diverse range of influences (we've seen what records he buys!) into a cohesive and superb combination of off-piste vocal timbres, mind-melting synths and spine-tingling melodies. Punctuated with moments of introspective melancholy but quickly resolved into a warm bath of huge rock progressions and gritty synth swirls. Absolutely brilliant, and undoubtedly the best work of his career.

      TRACK LISTING

      1 Metamorphosis
      2 Love Is Magic
      3 Tempest
      4 Preppy Boy
      5 Smug Cunt
      6 He's Got His Mother's Hips
      7 Diet Gum
      8 Is He Strange
      9 The Common Snipe
      10 Touch And Go

      Creep Show (John Grant & Wrangler)

      Mr. Dynamite

      Creep Show brings together John Grant with the dark funk of analogue electronic band Wrangler (Stephen Mallinder/Phil Winter/Benge) to create Mr Dynamite - a debut album packed with experimental pop and surreal funk. Recorded in Cornwall with a lifetime’s collection of drum machines and synthesisers assembled by Benge and explored by every member of Creep Show, there’s a real sense of freedom in the shackles-off grooves, channelling the early pioneering spirit of the Sugarhill Gang through wires and random electric noise. This sense of adventure is also part of the interplay between the two vocalists, John Grant and former Cabaret Voltaire frontman Stephen Mallinder, who switch between oblique wordplay to sinister humour as Phil Winter and Benge continue to man-handle the machines. The creepy ‘alter-ego’ title track, ‘Pink Squirrel’’s vocoder kaleidoscope and Grant’s exhilarating croon on the nine minute ‘Safe And Sound’ are just some of the twists and hooks to be explored on this consistently inventive record.

      STAFF COMMENTS

      Barry says: So, imagine John Grant's unmistakeable vocal serenades over the top of some rhythmic Bureau B synth pulses, swirling synth patterns and sickly-sweet Linn stabs. What could possibly go wrong? Absolutely nothing is what, it's superb, like we'd expect any different from our John.

      TRACK LISTING

      1 Mr. Dynamite
      2 Modern Parenting
      3 Tokyo Metro
      4 Endangered Species
      5 K Mart Johnny
      6 Pink Squirrel
      7 Lime Ricky
      8 Fall
      9 Safe And Sound

      It’s been the most spectacular of journeys, from a place in time when John Grant feared he’d never make music again, to winning awards, accolades and Top 20 chart positions, collaborating with the likes of Sinead O’Connor, Goldfrapp and Elton John, as well as a Best International Male Solo Artist nomination at the 2014 BRITS Awards.

      Now comes Grant’s third album, the invitingly titled Grey Tickles, Black Pressure, a veritable tour-de-force that further refines and entwines his two principal strands of musical DNA, the sumptuous tempered ballad and the taut, fizzing electronic pop song. There are newer musical accomplishments across its panoply of towering sound, like the title track’s new steely demeanour, while the ominous drama of “Black Blizzard” echoes both John Carpenter and Bernard ‘Black Devil Disco Club’ Fevre’s beautiful and icy synthscapes. The contagious, gleeful “You And Him” marries buzzing rock with a squelchy electronic undertow, while orchestral drama swathes the bad-dreamy “Global Warming” and the album’s gorgeously aching widescreen finale “Geraldine”.

      Grey Tickles, Black Pressure was recorded in Dallas with producer John Congleton (St Vincent, Franz Ferdinand, Swans) - coincidentally the same state of Texas where Grant nailed his 2010 solo debut Queen Of Denmark in the company of Denton’s wondrous Midlake. After that landmark return, which MOJO made its album of 2010, 2013’s Pale Green Ghosts was made in Icelandic capital Reykjavik (where Grant has lived ever since), which entered the UK Top 20 in its first week and ended up as Rough Trade Shop’s Album of the Year 2013, The Guardian’s No.2 and in MOJO and Uncut’s Top Five). Such recognition, iced by years of sell-out shows across Europe and a recent US tour as special invited guest of the Pixies, should allow the notoriously self-critical and insecure Grant the passing thought that Grey Tickles, Black Pressure will deservedly cement his reputation as the most disarmingly honest, caustic, profound and funny diarist of the human condition in the persistently testing, even tragic, era that is the 21st century.

      “I do think the album’s great, and I’m really proud of it,” he says. “I wanted to get moodier and angrier on this record, but I probably had a lot more fun making it.” He cites “amazing” session keyboardist Bobby Sparks, “who really funked things up,” as part of that fun; likewise a month of Dallas sunshine “after a brutal dark winter in Iceland. And there was a lot of laughter.”

      That said, fun isn’t the first ingredient you’d expect when you know the roots of the album title. “‘Grey tickles’ is the literal translation from Icelandic for ‘mid-life crisis’, while ‘black pressure’ is the direct translation from Turkish for ‘nightmare’,” Grant explains, an unusually gifted linguist (he’s fluent in German, Russian and now tackling Icelandic).

      Nevertheless, there are plenty of positive streaks in Grey Tickles, Black Pressure. Grant, for one, is in fabulous voice throughout and has moved on from the specific subject matter that shaped both previous albums (though the concept of love always figures into the mix). “Disappointing” – featuring vocal guest Tracey Thorne – is an exuberant tribute to new love, against which Grant’s favourite Saturday Night Live comediennes, Russian artists and “ballet dancers with or without tights” pale in comparison. The album’s other two guests are vocalist Amanda Palmer and former Banshees drummer Budgie.

      But the end result is indeed a moody, angry record, laced with levering humour and wounded pathos, yet as dark as Reykjavik in February. It starts and ends with spoken word snippets called, simply, “Intro” and “Outro”, both taken from the same Biblical quote (from 1 Corinthians 13) regarding the divinity of love that young John was taught in church. In between are 12 songs that document the reality of love on planet Earth, corrupted by “pain, misunderstandings, jealousy, objectification and expectations,” as Grant puts it.

      The album’s last two songs are among its finest. “No More Tangles” fights against co-dependency “with narcissistic queers,” he sings, through the metaphor of hair care products. “It’s about not apologizing for who you are and not putting up with unnecessary bullshit from people who do not care about you”. But in “Geraldine” (as in the late Geraldine Paige, “one of freakiest, strongest, coolest actresses I’ve come across”), Grant’s latest actor-inspired song is Grant’s chance to ask her if she too had to “put up with this shit” that life dishes out.

      So Grant still manages to keep fighting the good fight, and writing his way out of trouble with another fantastic record. “I want to continue to challenge myself,” he says. “To keep collaborating, to get the sound or the direction that will take me where I need to go. To keep taking the bull by the horns.” 

      STAFF COMMENTS

      Andy says: Lush, deep production bringing throbbing electronics further to the fore, which when married to Grant's enormo ballads and hilarious lyrics, make this John's most complete album yet.

      TRACK LISTING

      1. Intro
      2. Grey Tickles, Black Pressure
      3. Snug Slacks
      4. Guess How I Know
      5. You & Him
      6. Down Here
      7. Voodoo Doll
      8. Global Warming
      9. Magma Arrives
      10. Black Blizzard
      11. Disappointing
      12. No More Tangles
      13. Geraldine
      14. Outro

      John Grant And The BBC Philharmonic Orchestra

      Live In Concert

        Early October saw John Grant turn in a truly fabulous performance as part of the BBC Philharmonic Presents Series which was broadcast across 6Music and other BBC networks. This one-off live recording saw John performing much of his celebrated catalogue with the 60-piece BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, with arrangements by his long-time collaborator Fiona Brice.

        So good was the performance, and also in response to public demand, Bella Union are delighted to announce that the recording will be released in a few weeks time on 1st December. The recording should also serve as a memento (of sorts) for John's upcoming sold-out orchestral tour with the Royal Northern Sinfonia which will see him performing in some of the UK's most prestigious venues.

        TRACK LISTING

        It Doesn’t Matter To Him
        Sigourney Weaver
        Vietnam
        Marz
        Fireflies
        Where Dreams Go To Die
        Caramel
        Glacier
        T C & Honeybear
        It’s Easier
        GMF
        Pale Green Ghosts
        Outer Space
        You Don’t Have To
        Drug
        Queen Of Denmark

        John Grant

        Pale Green Ghosts

          After a breakthrough year that saw his exceptional solo debut "Queen Of Denmark" win MOJO’s album of 2010 and countless other accolades John Grant hasn’t rested on his laurels but created a follow-up that underlines his uncanny and charismatic talents. Recorded in Iceland and featuring Sinead O’Connor on guest vocals, the brilliant "Pale Green Ghosts" adds sublime notes of dark, gleaming electronica to the anticipated velveteen ballads, calling on all of Grant’s influences and tastes, presenting an artist at the peak of his powers.

          It’s been an extraordinary journey for John Grant, from a point where he thought he would never make music again or escape a life of substance abuse to winning awards and accolades, collaborating with Sinead O’Connor, Rumer and Hercules & Love Affair and having his music featured in the award-winning film Weekend.

          It’s a journey that’s taken him from his birthplace in Buchanan, Michigan to be raised in Parker, Colorado, studying languages in Germany and, after his band The Czars split up, basing himself in New York, London, Berlin and, most recently, Iceland, where the bulk of Pale Green Ghosts was recorded. It’s also been a journey from The Czars’ folk/country noir to the lush ‘70s FM alchemy of Queen Of Denmark to the astonishing fusion of sounds that lifts Pale Green Ghosts to even giddier heights.

          As if to acknowledge his journey, Grant has named the album after the opening title track, which documents the drives that he’d regularly take through the ‘80s, from Parker to the nearby metropolis of Denver, to the new wave dance clubs that have inspired the electronic elements of Pale Green Ghosts, and later on to visit the boyfriend - the ‘TC’ of Queen Of Denmark’s ‘TC & Honeybear’ - that inspired many of that album’s heartbreaking scenarios.

          “I’d take the I-25, between Denver and Boulder, which was lined with all these Russian olive trees, which are the pale green ghosts of the title: they have this tiny leaves with silver on the back, which glow in the moonlight,” Grant explains. “The song is about wanting to get out of a small town, to go out into the world and become someone and made my mark.”

          That Grant has made his mark is blatantly clear from how Queen Of Denmark was rapturously received. “Like a couple of similarly intense classics before it – Antony & The Johnsons’ I Am A Bird Now and Bon Iver’s For Emma… Queen Of Denmark sounds like a record its creator has been waiting his whole life to make,” MOJO concluded. Another measure of achievement, and the journey, is that one classic that Grant first heard in those new wave clubs was Sinead O’Connor’s ‘Mandinka’. Two decades later, O’Connor has not only covered the title track of ‘Queen Of Denmark’ on her latest album How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?, but supplies goose-bumping backing vocals on Pale Green Ghosts.

          Sinead’s presence is a surprise, but not compared to the album’s portion of synthesisers and beats – unless you already know Grant’s enduring love of vintage synth-pop and industrial dance, and more current electronic acts such as Trentemøller and Mock & Toof. “Electronica is a huge part of my personality and my influences, though I don’t think many people see that fitting in to the John Grant image, whatever that is,” he says. There were occasional electronic undertows to Czars songs and two tracks (‘That’s the Good News’ and ‘Supernatural Defibrillator"’) on the deluxe edition of Queen Of Denmark were dance tracks.

          One of those prime influences has even produced Pale Green Ghosts with Grant: Birgir Þórarinsson, a.k.a. Biggi Veira, of Iceland’s electronic pioneers Gus Gus. Queen of Denmark had been recorded in Texas with fellow Bella Union mates Midlake as his backing band, and Grant intended to return there to record again with the band’s rhythm section of McKenzie Smith and Paul Alexander. But a trip beforehand to see more of Iceland, after he’d first played the Iceland Airwaves festival in 2011, led to meeting Biggi, who invited Grant to his studio in Reykjavik. The two tracks the pair recorded – ‘Pale Green Ghosts’ and ‘Black Belt’ – convinced Grant he had to make the entire record there.

          If Queen Of Denmark is Grant’s ‘70s album, channeling the spirits of Karen Carpenter and Bread, then Pale Green Ghosts is his ’80s album. Of the electronic tracks, the title track is a panoramic, brooding classic, while ‘Sensitive New Age Guy’ and ‘Black Belt’ are the tracks that you might dance to in new wave clubs. ‘You Don’t Have To’ is a classic example of Grant’s influences blending together, in a reworked arrangement of a track unveiled during concert tours in 2011. It also features the distinct spacey Moog sounds that are familiar to lovers of Queen Of Denmark, while McKenzie and Alexander play on ‘Vietnam’ and ‘It Doesn’t Matter To Him’. Grant’s touring partner, keyboardist Chris Pemberton, plays the gorgeous piano coda on the album’s tumultuous finale ‘Glacier’.

          TRACK LISTING

          1. Pale Green Ghosts
          2. Black Belt
          3. GMF
          4. Vietnam
          5. It Doesn’t Matter To Him
          6. Why Don’t You Love Me Anymore
          7. You Don’t Have To
          8. Sensitive New Age Guy
          9. Ernest Borgnine
          10. I Hate This Town
          11. Glacier

          John Grant

          Queen Of Denmark

          John Grant, former singer/songwriter with Bella Union cult favorites The Czars, finally returns in April 2010 with an extraordinary debut solo album made with Midlake.

          Everyone has a favorite band or singer they reckon is subject to criminal neglect. That John Grant’s effortlessly rich, expansive baritone, couched in typically heartbreaking, lush melody, hasn’t found a wider audience many would consider a crime. But no longer. Because Grant’s first solo album is so undeniably great that the world will surely listen.

          It’s a record of gravitas and grace, of FM melody magic laced with raw emotional bleeding. It asks why relationships are roulette and love is hell in a last-ditch attempt at self-improvement and atonement after years of alcohol and cocaine dependency. And on top, to further the album’s brilliance, Grant’s backing band on the album are Bella Union label-mates Midlake, contributing their most empathic ‘70s-style soft-rock know-how. Put simply, “Queen Of Denmark” is the record Grant’s been waiting his whole life to make.
          Not that the Czars didn’t hit their own heights. After emerging from Denver, Colorado, rave reviews were the norm… “Long distinguished by John Grant’s superlative baritone, ‘Goodbye’ reeks of wistful, melancholic class… as meticulous and complete-sounding as the best works by Mercury Rev or The Flaming Lips” said Uncut about The Czars’ final album.
          “Queen Of Denmark” was recorded in Denton in late 2008 through 2009 in the studio downtime while Midlake were recording their own record. The album moves through simple piano settings via an infusion of period-perfect synths that epitomise the lonely mood. There’s flute from Midlake frontman Tim Smith on the dreamiest cut ‘Marz’ and velvet strings on ‘Dreams’, which imagines Scott Walker influenced by Patsy Cline. There is pure longing in the opening ‘TC And Honeybear’ and bitterly sarcastic anger in the magnificent title track finale… Pain, hope, fear, regret and self-discovery… “Queen of Denmark” has it all… framed within some of the finest songs you’ll hear in this or any other year…

          TRACK LISTING

          1. TC & Honeybear
          2. Marz
          3. Where Dreams Go To Die
          4. Sigourney Weaver
          5. Chicken Bones
          6. Silver Platter Club
          7. It’s Easier
          8. Outer Space
          9. Jesus Hates Faggots
          10. Caramel
          11. Leopard & Lamb
          12. Queen Of Denmark


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