John Grant – Love Is Magic

Back for the fourth time as a solo artist, John Grant has returned with another treasure trove of quips, sardonic wit, and an ever-increasing array of electropop classics. His love of synths and keyboards have been there since his 2010 solo debut Queen of Denmark, but this record finds him fully embraced in that world. As with this year’s Creep Show side project, Grant is again working with Ben Edwards, and that collaboration continues to provide rich pickings. “Each record I make is more of an amalgamation of who I am,” he explains, saying that this record, “is closer still to how I’ve always wanted my records to sound”.

The album begins like a portal opening onto an acid trip state of mind, the strange wild ride of a track that is ‘Metamorphosis’. The embodiment of 2018 wrapped up in song form, it is an engaging and electrifying start. “Baby’s in the whitest house playing with his toys” is an obvious reference to you-know-who, though there is also a saddening portrayal of seeing someone close to him slipping away. Like Grant himself, it is a conundrum in its purest form. Likewise with the title track, which straddles his ability to employ a devastating dry wit with being an old romantic at heart. Self-doubt and depression are examined: “You’re trying to work out on your calculator, if you can swing that trip to anywhere but here”. That brutal self-examination lies amongst beautifully textured synths, shimmering like sunlight glistening over ice on a frosty morning.

Those Creep Show elements remain, only with his usual balladry draped over the top like a fancy jacket. The futuristic-yet-retro 80s synths fit ‘Tempest’ perfectly, while ‘Preppy Boy’ sees Grant get his funk on with great results. ‘He’s Got His Mothers Hips’ does a similar trick, and no matter whose hips you may have you will find them wiggling in time with its catchy moments. Casting his eye further afield, ‘Smug C**t’, if based on a real person, may find someone shifting themselves uncomfortably in their chair. Though judging by his description, they probably wouldn’t even ordain to care. ‘Touch And Go’ on the other hand, is a thoughtful and caring ode to Chelsea Manning and the inner strength she has shown through her recent struggles.

Love Is Magic is an album of love songs, but not the usual kind of love songs. ‘The Common Snipe’ speaks metaphorically about how love is about accepting someone for who they are (six inch claws and all), while the gorgeous ‘Is He Strange’ warns against rushing to judgment. These tracks sum up the appeal of John Grant and his music to a tee. No need to compromise or alter his approach, he continues to simply and effectively go about writing songs that may be covered in a glossy electropop sheen but are, at heart, beautiful, cleverly crafted, pop songs. Both he, and Love Is Magic, are magic.

Jamie MacMillan

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