New Music 03/2018 – John Grant, Ibeyi

A brutal and confessional break-up record; excellent second album from a genre-mashing sister duo.

John Grant – Pale Green Ghosts

The peril of a relationship with a musician is that, should it come to a bitter dissolution, you might have a scathing song or two dedicated to you on their next album. And man, the unnamed bloke who had broken John Grant’s heart is all over Pale Green Ghosts, getting pilloried with lines like, You are supercilious, pretty and ridiculous / You got really good taste / You know how to cut and paste. Or And the only thing that brings me any comfort / Is the knowledge that no matter who you’re with / You’ll always be alone.

The only person who cops it harder is Grant himself, who often exposes his self-loathing in a breathtakingly harsh manner. Between his hatred for his former lover and himself, this could have been a bleak and miserable affair to listen to, if it wasn’t for the wit and the streak of black humour that always marked Grant’s songwriting, and the inherent warmth of his rich baritone. Musically, it’s dominated by moody sparse electronica and the lush gorgeous sound I loved on Queen of Denmark only pops up occasionally, but I can’t complain too much when the synth-based songs on the album are the best ones, especially the title track.

Ibeyi – Ash

I first heard about this French-Cuban twin sister duo when they released their debut album in 2015 and I quite liked a few tracks I listened to on YouTube. Ash is their second release. Their style is a bit hard to describe; it incorporates jazz, soul, hip-hop, electronics, and traditional instruments like African percussion, there are also lovely vocal harmonies and interplay between the sisters. A beautiful, sometimes eerie and plaintive, sometimes uplifting record. Also, while the folding cover of the CD is rather impractical, I’m rather glad that in this digital era artists still put thought into unconventional packaging, which for me is a huge appeal of the physical music format.

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