Album Review: John Grant – Boy From Michigan

The Breakdown

Boy From Michigan is a nostalgic and melancholy trip back to Grant's hometown.
Bella Union

Michigan boy John Grant has always moved to the beat of his own drum. If you were to ask me to fit him into a box – a genre that he could comfortably placed in, then I could only call it John Grant. From the dream-pop beginnings of his debut solo, Queen of Denmark, to the dark, electronic layers of his last album Love is Magic. He’s not afraid to mix things up to create something that is all his own. It’s Grant’s greatest power, being able to mice so seamlessly from something beautiful, to something so sublime. But his albums are far from schitsophrenic. It’s clear right from track one exactly who it us we’re listening to. His stamp is all the way through it.

It’s been more than two years since the release of Love is Magic, and he continues on this new album with the same electronic tip as on it’s predecessor. Boy from Michigan is the latest collection, and delights us with tales from his hometown, previous loves and childhood. As with his previous work, he wears his sexuality on his sleeve and delivers twelve new tales from the depths if his mind. It’s as frank and honest as his previous work.

The first release and title track from album gave us a taste of what was to come. It’s an epic, dark and brooding electronic track that kicks things off with the style of which we’ve become accustomed to. But whilst the previous album hits you full on in the face, right from the offset, Boy from Michigan effortlessly washes over you. It develops his love for electronic music, with the dreamy melodies of what came before.

There are moments of real beauty on the album, maybe more so than on any of his previous works.  County Fair is a nostalgic and joyful ode to childhood, delivered with the thoughtful use of words that you’d expect. The Cruise Room is a melancholy piano ballad, frank and honest, with an enchanting and understated arrangement. But don’t get too relaxed. The pace is about to pick up.

Best in Me is deliciously eighties inspired, beat heavy synth track, complete with spoken word sequences and robotic vocals. Rhetorical Figure is unlike anything else on the album, and delivers a more industrial punk vibe.

The crescendo comes right at the end, in the form of Billy: an ode to lost love. It’s probably the most heartfelt moment, certainly on the album, if not from his past body of work too.

There’s a lot to get your teeth into on Boy From Michigan, and shows the development of an artist. Grant is without doubt a talented wordsmith, LGBTQ icon and musical visionary. Boy From Michigan shows all these different sides.

Boy From Michigan is out now.

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