Jack Garratt: Phase

Ben Grundy reviews the critically acclaimed debut album by Jack Garratt

7th March 2016

In order to break into an already over-crowded male singer-songwriter environment, Garratt needs to differentiate himself from the likes of James Bay and Ben Howard. Garratt achieves this in Phase by intertwining his soulful, powerful voice with fresh synth beats. Though some criticism fired at Garratt deems him bland, that is not the case, it is rather that Phase is somewhat one-dimensional. ‘Coalesce’ kickstarts Phase and sees an emotionally charged Garratt introducing his blend of falsetto and synth. This track slides effortlessly into ‘Breathe Life.’

Whilst Garratt’s songs seem at times almost indistinguishable from one another, they are undeniably catchy, but you cannot help but want Garratt to break away from his formulaic approach. This ever-present dichotomy in Garratt’s music between soul and synth is most transparently exemplified in ‘Far Cry’ where we have smooth piano accompanying Garratt’s vocals before erupting into blaring synth until it reverts back to its more hushed beginning. Whether or not this style will be enough for Garratt himself to erupt as well is left to be seen. The cyclical nature of both Phase as a whole and its individual components is reflected in ‘Weathered’ which starts and ends with the lyric “When I grow old, I’ll drink and smoke…”. ‘Weathered’ furthers the sense of Garratt’s clear multi-faceted instrumental capabilities which shine through Phase.

Whether or not this style will be enough for Garratt himself to erupt as well is left to be seen

The epicentre of Phase sees its best tracks and the greatest examples of Garratt’s potential brilliance – in particular the stand out ‘Worry’. Garratt bemoans “my nights are broken up by the sounds of women I’ll never meet” which is a sentiment that I’m certain anyone who’s ever lived in a student halls of residence can empathise with. Like in most of Phase, Garratt is at first lightly accompanied enabling his voice to build alongside the track’s layers before breaking out into a heavily infectious chorus. Dubstep murmurs combine with drumbeats and a pining Garratt seeking redemption, which works well, whilst Garratt confesses his inability to continue his external pretence of acceptance and indifference towards his break-up. ‘The Love You’re Given’ underscores the purer, less electronic elements of Phase as well-considered layers crescendo into vibrant soul. ‘I Know All What I Do’ and ‘Surprise Yourself’ resonate as Garratt morphs into an electronic Ed Sheeran. ‘Chemical’ brings this part of Phase to an end with his harsh yet encapsulating chorus alongside his admission of “chauvinistic” love demonstrating a meaning behind Garratt’s lyrics that far surpasses those seen in the majority of “radio-friendly” music. ‘Fire’ is arguably Garratt most dance-orientated track incorporating elements of house at times, which is in stark contrast to Phase’s finale ‘My House is your Home’. The album concludes with Garratt finally truly stripped back and away from the computer-generated sounds epitomising Phase. Despite containing a few clichéd lyrics, this side of Garratt is criminally underused throughout as Garratt’s vocal power is here truly indicated.

More long-term Garratt fans may however feel slightly underwhelmed. The stand out tracks have all been released as part of earlier EPs with any alterations being minimal. Regardless, there is enough potential in Phase to suggest Garratt could be the next big name in music but he is in no means the finished article.


Ben Grundy

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