Few artists and few debut full length releases have experienced such hype over the past few years as Jack Garratt has with his debut LP, Phase. It seems as though he has been edging on mainstream success for years, and from playing BBC Introducing in 2012 to winning the Critic’s Choice award at this year’s BRITs, the story of how he has slowly but surely become one of the most popular current acts is a fairytale in itself.
On starting the album, it takes less than one minute for Garratt to burst out into his incredibly powerful vocals to accompany the fantastically self-produced instrumental on opener Coalesce (Synesthesia, Pt. II). The only possible complaint to be made with this song is that it is too short. However, Breathe Life follows the same formula – around one minute of a relaxed instrumental with smooth, soft vocals building up to the listener being catapulted into the massive dance chorus. By this point in the album Garratt has already proved himself as an amazingly talented vocalist, musician and producer, and on the third track, this is no different. In fact, Far Cry is possibly the most interesting song found in this first section of the release, and one of the more experimental points of the album, whereby Garratt’s dance beat is constantly switching between double and half time signatures, almost compelling the listener to dance along.
Weathered offers a chance for Garratt to show his softer side, and a chance for the listener to catch their breath – at least for the first minute or two. The track opens with Jack’s layered vocals forming a sort of gospel choir over a church organ, before suddenly kicking into a slow, heartfelt electronic beat. Gradually the track builds up into a massive anthem, and there are few words to describe the last minute of this track other than mind-blowing. The chances of you reading this review without having heard Garratt’s massive single Worry by now are pretty slim – it’s barely been off the radio for the past few weeks. The reason for that being that, just like every other track up to this point, Garratt has done a fantastic job of creating a tune which is not only interesting and musically quite original, but also very radio friendly.
The Love You’re Given is the start of a wonderfully experimental eight minutes of the album, with an odd chord sequence and some weird contrasting melodies – but they all seem to work to make a chilled, Disclosure-esque dance / house tune. I Know All What I Do is a ballad which is somehow not only extremely emotional, but also contains some crazy synthesised wailing sounds in the background – Garratt just seems to have a knack for some of the things he does with sounds to work well together, as proved by this unique track.
As we reach the final section of the album, Surprise Yourself is the first track by which it almost starts to feel as though we’ve heard the same thing before on this release. However it is quickly pulled back with an impressively uplifting and soulful chorus (especially for something whose only lyrics are “ooh”, “whoa” and “ahh”). Chemical picks up the pace again with a rough dance beat with Garratt’s soulful falsetto vocals over the top. Fire is one of the highest points of this release once it kicks in with its upbeat garage percussion and synths on top of unexpected melodies and manic keyboard riffs. The intro of Synesthesia, Pt. III is fittingly reminiscent of the opening track on the album, and it features a sample of his vocals from said track. In fact, it plays more as an incredibly hard hitting remix of Coalesce than a separate song in itself. At just two and a half minutes though, it’s a shame that this track doesn’t last longer, as it is a clear highlight of the whole album with possibly one of the most rewarding build-ups heard in dance music of the whole decade.
Closing track, My House Is Your Home is a beautiful, jazzy piano ballad featuring a completely untamed vocal performance, which almost sounds as though it has been recorded from Garratt’s bedroom. This is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful piano/vocal collaborations that you will hear in a long time, and what makes it even more impressive is how raw and unpolished this track is.
This track is just the cherry to top off an album which has already seen Garratt prove his wide range of talent as a musical artist, having already covered every base from new R’n’B to experimental house, jazz and soul to an acoustic piano ballad, all in the space of just twelve songs. And the question you are forced to ask yourself after listening to this release is – has all the hype been worth it? The answer honestly has to be an absolute yes. Phase is an outstanding release which is an impressive listen throughout – there is not one bad track on here. This is truly a work of art, and an achievement which any artist under the sun would be proud of.
For fans of: Raleigh Ritchie, HONNE, Chet Faker
Words by Tom Armstrong
‘Phase’ by Jack Garratt is out now on Island Records.