With his debut album, “Phase,” Jack Garratt garnered critical acclaim in the UK for his soulful vocals sung over hard-hitting electronica. He claimed a much-deserved Brits Critic’s Choice Award for 2016 as well as a BBC Sound of 2016 (past winners include Adele, Sam Smith, and Ellie Goulding) with his album peaking at number two on the UK charts.
Album Review: Jack Garratt “Phase (Deluxe)”
He extended this album to create “Phase (Deluxe),” a nineteen-song track list full of intense dynamic and tempo changes that demand the audience’s attention. With the way the songs build up and explode into different genres, it’s almost as if Garratt created his songs in movements rather than verses; he masterfully stitches together R&B, dubstep, and acoustic sounds to create a cohesive, immersive experience.
The overarching theme of this album is synesthesia, a neurological condition in which a person’s senses are cross wired – for example, someone might hear a sound and see an image. Other than there being three songs with “synesthesia” in the title (parts I, II, and III), Garratt creates this through interweaving sounds that are not traditionally associated with or found in musical compositions (i.e. the squeaking of a rocking chair, fireworks). These subtle, memory-triggering sounds create a deeper, more established story in each song rather than simply referencing the image lyrically.
The most important thing to note about this album: wear headphones. You’ll enjoy the music either way, but Garratt was very intentional in the production of his music, adding subtle chill-inducing elements that reclaim and intensify the listener’s interest. Take “Breathe Life” for example, this radio-ready pop song about overzealous, self-deprecating love builds through a catchy chorus to peak and be dissolved through an abrupt sound, vibrating and alternating through your headphones: guaranteeing goosebumps. “Water” also falls into this category as, throughout the song, the notes warble between one another, emulating the sound of water flowing and bubbling, tying back to the whole theme of synesthesia.
Of the nineteen tracks, I can only find two let-downs: “Synesthesia Pt. I” and “Water – Acoustic.” “Synesthesia Pt. I” is essentially “Part II” and “Part III” remixed into one song with no vocal track overlaid; it acts almost as a prequel to the other songs, and everyone knows the originals are always better. As someone who is typically a fan of acoustic covers and stripping back a song, I found “Water – Acoustic” extremely disappointing. Garratt’s vocals are much weaker in this, causing the song to lose the richness that makes the original so great.
Overall, Jack Garratt put out a debut that would make any debutante blush. “Phase (Deluxe)” lyrically and formulaically challenges traditional pop music with poetic interludes and subtle complexity. It is produced to engage your senses, so buy it and don’t forget your headphones!
Stephanie Grimes is a graduate student at William Paterson University working towards her MBA Music Management. She completed her BS in business administration: management with minors in international business and marketing from Oklahoma State University in 2016. She is currently a publishing operations intern at Songtrust.