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Album Review: John Grant – The Art Of The Lie

3 min read
Album Review: John Grant - The Art Of The Lie

Michigan-born singer-songwriter John Grant has managed to carve a unique spot in pop in a relatively short amount of time. Since his solo debut in 2010, John has created a plethora of smart, catchy, and heartfelt synth-pop, using his talent and keen songwriting ability to shine a light on both political and personal issues surrounding his life as a gay man. On his latest record The Art Of The Lie, he continues to dive deeper into the well, whilst experimenting with this sound.

All That School For Nothing starts off ominously, building the levels of synth up until John’s heavily effected vocal enters. There’s hints of Prince in the sound, not just in the voice but in the groove. It’s a funky introduction that takes its time, lavishly arranged and wonderfully performed. Marbles takes on a moody, 90s metal aesthetic in synthesiser form, growing until the hopeful chorus breaks up the melancholic undertones. The seven-minute opus hypnotises listeners with its layers of sounds, ending with John repeating the phrase ‘I love you’ almost as a promise to fans that he still cares and that he is OK. Father is a beautiful, vocoder-laden ballad, while Mother And Son begins as a soundscape before melodic elements begin to reveal themselves and give body to the piece. The first half of the record ends with a fake advertisement for a game, designed it seems to use religion as a weapon. Twistin Scriptures acts as a humours end to what feels like a heavy first half both sonically and thematically. 

Meek AF brings back the funk, as well as John’s clean baritone, until the chorus where everything gets distorted and synthetic. A great vocoder solo follows, as well as a rap verse later into the song. It’s A Bitch showcases John’s bubbly personality, his phrasing dancing over the tight and bouncy instrumental. Daddy and The Child Catcher bring the tempo down once again, the former embracing the ambient edges of John’s sound with elongated chords and light percussion. The latter does similar with its sound, but includes a guitar solo and more involved drums which elevate the song to a highly satisfying extent. Laura Lou combines beautiful vocoder with intriguing synth sounds to create one of the more interesting synth pallets on the album, while the final track Zeitgeist seems to mirror the opening track whilst coming across as a spectral Pink Floyd song, ending the record on a poignant but ambiguous note.

All the songs on The Art Of The Lie are given room to breathe, relishing in their ambient backdrops and peculiar sounds. They are much better heard in their entirety as apposed to in a song by song basis, something that coming from John’s back catalogue was intentional, but there are a few tracks here that stand out amongst the rest. Father, Marbles, The Child Catcher, and great choices from what is a fantastic album.