We know what’s going to happen here. Self-made dude gets big off his own back, wins lots of spotlight awards, slowly gets the words ‘bland’ and ‘mainstream’ attached, ready for a spectacular pedestal-push after the first album. But here’s the thing: Jack Garratt, like his underground rise and that majestic beard, is all about defying the gravity of expectation.
Phase, then, comes to us more as a commercially-accessible James Blake and SOHN than your usual overly-sanitised BBC Sound winner. Opening up with Coalesce (Synesthesia Pt. II) is a pretty pointed mission statement, given it wraps up everything that makes Garratt a success: skittish, dynamic beats, a huge wallop/wobble of a chorus, and a vocal that surprises in the effortless range it hits.
From then on, Phase is a tour of self-produced charm that enjoys a formula, but presents it with solid class. Far Cry might not be memorable for any of its simple lines, but it does act as a nifty counterweight for the breakthrough Breathe Life. If Weathered errs too close to Sheeran territory, The Love You’re Given is still a masterclass in administering goosebumps.
A lot of the chatter around Garratt has also taken in the man’s ability to deliver one of the most scintillating live performances on his todd. That often works against Phase, given the pin-drop rapture Surprise Yourself inspires in person has translated into something of an over-produced studio shiner. It’s a line often crossed by the newcomer, though understandable that he’s still finding his footing when it comes to the population of his sound.
But it’s also that sluggish mid-section in general that stops Garratt achieving true greatness from the starting blocks; once the pattern’s been cracked, it’s hard to see past it both in terms of this record and his wider career. In that respect, the title seems quite an apt one: with any luck this sound – very ‘of-the-moment’ as it is – will be confined to a Phase, and Garratt can show us he has the capacity to evolve into something even bigger.