10. John Grant with Midlake – Queen Of Denmark (Bella Union)
Few people expected John Grant to rise from the ashes of his previous band The Czars quite so spectacularly – including Grant himself, who had considered turning his back on the idea of being a musician.Fortunately his friends convinced him otherwise, and of those friends it was Midlake that were instrumental in his return by offering up their services as his band.
By the time Queen Of Denmark came out in April, Midlake had already released the majestic folk-inflected The Courage Of Others. Queen Of Denmark however explored alternative sonic avenues; together, they appropriated the West Coast sound of the ’70s, giving the album a slick lost-in-time feel.Grant’s intelligent lyrics encompassed a range of topics, but at heart Queen Of Denmark was a sublime confessional. He was heartbroken and self-deprecating one moment and angry and untouchable the next. Most importantly each and every line was delivered a warm timbre infused with what could only be described as soul.
That the album was released under John Grant’s name alone perhaps explains why Queen Of Denmark found itself unveiled with little fanfare bar a handful of enthusiastic reviews – had Midlake’s name been attached it might have found a ready made audience. As it was, it took a little time for the album to make itself known. A gutsy performance of Marz on Later… with Jools Holland helped to garner some attention, but it was on the recent tour as support for Midlake where Grant started to gather support in earnest. The wit, romance, sadness, cynicism and angst of Queen Of Denmark given a live airing was an intense experience. With new material being debuted at these shows and two albums in the pipeline – including another with Midlake – John Grant’s future looks considerably more positive than the life he describes in these songs.
What we said: “Like other masters of this sad art – Eels, Mercury Rev, The Flaming Lips – Grant is one of music’s unfortunate poets, an outsider with the power to live out his fantasies by way of another far more fantastical life and the gift that he has been given.”