Magnificently threatening synths match the dark heart of John Grant as he reflects on the roadside trees from his days growing up in Colorado; trees that he would drive past, headlights shining, as he searched for a way out of small town life. Since then he’s been to the bottom and crawled his way back up from addiction, and found love (and sang openly and honestly about it on his debut album The Queen of Denmark) only to lose it again (and sing openly and honestly about it on Pale Green Ghosts). In the meantime he learned that he was HIV positive, news which he made public during a performance at the Meltdown festival. John Grant does not do private.
Knowing that he’s baring it all, over and over, only adds to the lyrical bite and wit of Pale Green Ghosts: on the definitely NSFW track GMF, knowingly bitter lines like “I should’ve practiced my scales / I should not be attracted to males” butt heads with tough honesty: “I’m usually only waiting for you to stop talking / so that I can / Concerning 2-way streets I have to say / that I am not a fan”. Throughout, Grant’s rich baritone, and occasional backing vocals from the likes of Sinead O’Connor, is a perfect match for playful melodies, which in turn contrast with the lyrical harshness that dominates the album. Pale Green Ghosts was the Rough Trade Shops album of the year for 2013, and not without good reason.