It’s a hard knock life for a male pop star these days, especially one from the UK. If we’re not being battered around the ears with the wet-lettuce likes of Ed Sheeran or (shudder) Robbie Williams, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand out as a man with something interesting to say, and in a manner that’s remotely memorable. Just ask Frankmusik.
It’s this very fact that makes Fryars even more a person of note after Power. Taking a break from his various duties with Lily Allen and Rae Morris (Cold is still a bloody brilliant track, mind), Ben Garrett puts a couple of false starts and a long hiatus behind him to assert himself as a songwriting (and film-making) force of wonder. From the off, his crystal clear vocal echoes around the line “feeling like you don’t belong” on On Your Own – it’s an accurate summation for Garrett, given his brand of old-world charm in a new-school package don’t really fit in the modern pop landscape.
They bloody well ought to, though. In My Arms is infinite freshness, a balance of light and shade in Garrett’s perfectly-pitched falsetto and a frantic lower-register chorus. Genres are traversed across the space of an hour, as the radio-friendly Prettiest Ones Fly Highest is moments away from the Rat Pack-inflected, classic Hollywood China Voyage. All strings and glitches, it’s a marvel to watch it unfurl among this fictional cityscape of Garrett’s imagination.
While you might not have pitched Fryars to make any sort of discernible impact at the beginning of the year, underestimating him at this point in time would be pure folly. Power is one of the most cohesive, arresting, and thought-provoking albums of the year; it’s future-pop with an ear out for the past, a tale told like a modern Metropolis, presented in a relentlessly listenable package. Now that’s what you call power.