Phase has been a long time coming. At 13, Jack Garratt was one of seven unsuccessful finalists hoping to represent the UK at the 2005 Junior Eurovision Song Contest. Eleven years later, following a pre-uni acoustic blues phase and a stint of BBC Introducing support, the bearded Buckinghamshire lad has won both the BBC Sound of 2016 poll and the BRITs Critics Choice Award with his subwoofer-friendly ballads.
That same double-win is a feat shared by Sam Smith, Ellie Goulding and Adele, now all multi-platinum-selling artists. As the UK charts newest Big Deal, Garratt has perfectly pitched his debut, drawing on Ed Sheerans formula loop-filled one-man performances amplified by big, sensitive vocals and giving it a twist with satisfyingly meaty, on-trend synth work. Thanks to the 24-year-olds undeniable skills as a multi-instrumentalist, producer and singer, talent oozes from Phase, even if its sometimes put to unadventurous use.
Two synesthesia-related tracks Coalesce and Synesthesia Pt. III are promisingly weird, inspired by the trippy, sense-swapping neurological condition Garratts girlfriend shares with musicians including Lorde and Pharrell. These two rework a brilliant, earth-juddering melody from his 2015 Synesthesiac EP into a sort of synth-spluttering homage to BTSTU, the debut demo from enigmatic Rayners Lane dude Jai Paul. Ill open up your mind, Garratt yells.
Phase doesnt make good on that promise throughout, but is a showcase of solid songwriting and slick production. The dodgiest moments come from the lyrics, which flit from prematurely world-weary on Weathered (If I never let you go/Will you keep me young?) to overblown self-indulgence on My House Is Your Home (Ive clothed my fears in the fabric of your dignity). The pained optimism of Surprise Yourself is least mind-opening of all, full of widescreen melodies and silly maxims like Talk without the tape to hold the doubts that should embrace your hope.
These overly earnest lines do a disservice to Garratts talents as a musician and producer, because the artful melodies and textures on Phase really do shine. NME.com