Release Date: Feb 19, 2016
Record label: Interscope
Jack Garratt's debut, Phase, arrived with no shortage of British industry fanfare, as the singer and multi-instrumentalist won not only the 2016 Brit Award for Critics' Choice, but also the BBC Sound of 2016 top spot and the BBC Introducing Award. Under that spotlight, Garratt released a moving album of yearning power and deft electronic arrangements, with a dash of British garage and jungle. More accessible than James Blake, less precious than Sam Smith, and less pastoral than James Bay or Hozier, Garratt distinguishes himself by cleverly merging atmospheric electronics with emotional depth.
James Bay, winner of last year’s Brit critics’ choice award, casts a long shadow over this year’s anointed, Jack Garratt, and his debut album, Phase – a twitchy, varied record with its trainers in two camps, emoting male pop (a boom genre), and desolate night sounds (ditto). Bay’s own debut performed none too shabbily last year, selling more copies in the UK than any other released in 2015. On his tail comes Garratt, another hat-wearing young white man from the home counties, operating solo; one who has the added blessing of the BBC Sound of… No 1 spot (Sam Smith and Adele are two previous winners of the debutant double).
Jack Garratt is in possession of quite the double-edged sword. Having already won a BRIT Award and been dubbed the unofficial sound of 2016, he’s in an undeniably favourable position. Being plonked on a such a pedestal so early on could, however, stand to be a pretty nail-biting affair. After taking a dramatic career detour from primary school teacher training, Garratt released his first EP ‘Remnants’ last year and quickly racked up quite the array of praise.
Two synesthesia-related tracks – ‘Coalesce’ and ‘Synesthesia Pt. III’ – are promisingly weird, inspired by the trippy, sense-swapping neurological condition Garratt’s girlfriend shares with musicians including Lorde and Pharrell. These two rework a brilliant, earth-juddering melody from his 2015 ‘Synesthesiac’ EP into a sort of synth-spluttering homage to ‘BTSTU’, the debut demo from enigmatic Rayner’s Lane dude Jai Paul.
About 10 years ago, a former musician called Mike McCready started attracting a lot of attention from the press. Understandably so: he had come up with a computer program that he claimed could accurately predict whether or not a song was going to be a hit. Furthermore, if it wasn’t, he claimed it could tell you what to do it to rectify the situation.
2016 will be the year of Jack Garratt – or it should be, if all the early hype is to be believed. The 24-year-old has already completed the prestigious double of topping this year’s BBC Sound of… list and winning the Brit Awards’ Critics’ Choice Award. But while both these gongs bring greater exposure and recognition, they also come with a whole lot of pressure.
Jack Garratt has only just released his debut album, but his success has been sewn up for months. Last October, the 24-year-old British songwriter/producer announced a show at London's 5000-capacity Brixton Academy for this coming April. In November, he won the Brits Critics' Choice Award for 2016; last month, the BBC Sound of 2016 poll. From the other side of the Atlantic, those might look like insignificant spoils, but in the UK, it's a case of mutually assured industry triumph: Garratt dominates radio, plays sweet televised spots at major festivals, boosts live revenues, and makes the organizations that backed him look smart.
Nothing is stable in the songs on Jack Garratt’s debut album, “Phase.” One moment, his voice is a confiding croon; the next, it could be a piercing falsetto chorus, a hearty self-made men’s choir or a chopped-up sample. Sounds flicker in and out of earshot, turn distorted, rear up out of nowhere or subliminally wobble and throb; dance-club beats are likely to arrive midsong and disappear just as suddenly. It’s anxious, fidgety music, as electronically splintered as the 21st-century attention span.
If last month was teeming with a strong assortment of bouncy electro pop, then this one was chock-full of indie rock releases. Carl wasn't too impressed with most of these month's rock-oriented offerings, including Wolfmother's brazen return, while Juan was somewhat disappointed with those that ….
When Jack Garratt arrived at SXSW 2016 as a certified buzz act, he dropped jaws with his six-armed approach to performance, gorgeously realizing his sensitive songs via keyboard, electric guitar, and drum pads. The young Brit's debut LP calls into question whether he's the next great electronic singer-songwriter or the worst bedroom-emo dubstep producer. On "Coalesce (Synesthesia Pt.