Wednesday, April 21, 2010
John Grant - Queen of Denmark (2010)
John Grant scores major points for recording this album with folk-rock band Midlake providing the backup. Midlake’s recent album, The Courage of Others, showed they’re masters of austere folk balladry. That album was absolutely stunning, and they do good work here with gentle piano and guitars as the most common elements. Strings and flutes pop up now and then to add some color, but this album is really intended to allow Grant to showcase his voice. He spent the past decade as frontman of The Czars, a decent indie rock band that was a bit on the mellow sound. He sings in a high baritone, or low tenor, and his voice is rich and soulful. If this album has any flaw, it’s that it sometimes sounds a bit too lounge-rock. “Chicken Bones” is an example of this, as is “Where Dreams Go to Die.” Despite the latter’s glorious chorus, he might as well be leaning on a grand piano with a glass of scotch as he sings. There are also times he sounds a bit too dramatic. A song like “Outer Space” sounds like it was pulled from the climax of a Disney adaptation of some fairytale, but the song has some nice flute playing. There are also a couple of dull, sleepy ballads towards the end of the album. “Silver Platter Club” has a bouncy music hall piano melody, and despite sounding too much like Ringo Starr’s solo work, it’s a fun song. “JC Hates Faggots” is an odd song with gritty guitars in the verses but there is something entertaining about hearing him sing some very offensive words seemingly without irony. “Queen of Denmark” features some of his best lyrics. There is something entertaining about hearing him sing, sounding quite serious, about having urinated in someone’s coffee. This album is at its best when Grant grabs hold of a melody and lets loose. He has decent pipes, so why not show them off? Given its style, it really shouldn’t be as enjoyable as it is. Far from life changing, John Grant nonetheless is an example of how a guy can sing from his heart and have it mean something. The Midlake collaboration helps too.
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