The Colorado singer returns for his third album and is as weird and unsettling as before. Grey Tickles, Black Pressure is full of trippy electronic hooks and oddly depressing lyrics. It strikes a balance between putting the listener on edge and drawing them further into the strange dystopia Grant has created.
Similarities can certainly be drawn between Grant and Father John Misty, the bearded troubadour of Fleet Foxes fame, both championing hauntingly beautiful melodies and mundane, even crude, lyrics. In ‘Disappointing’ (a kind of ‘These Are A Few of My Favourite Things’ in reverse), you’re far more attracted by the sound of his deep bass voice than by the content of his words. The cheery “shooby-do-bops” provide a strange contrast to the seemingly solemn proclamation “there’s nothing more beautiful than your smile as it conquers your face”, but it’s this precise contrast that makes the lyrics all the more poignant.
Whilst the composition of Grant’s tracks are deceptively simple, the interplay between them is what makes them so exciting. In ‘Down Here’, the staple drums and guitar hold it together as various synth, vocal and bass lines drift in and out at different points; the saxophone solo halfway through has to win the award for Most Unexpected and Pleasantly Surprising Solo on a John Grant Album. And that’s saying something.
The most striking thing about Grey Tickles, Black Pressure is how subtly intelligent it is. Stings like “global warming is ruining my fair complexion” are total curveballs that brighten your day just from the sounds entering your ears. And given his past albums, we should have learnt to expect them by now, but I guess that’s just the thing about John Grant: expect the unexpected.