- Audio CD (19 April 2010)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Label: Bella Union
- ASIN: B00369K2SM
- Other Editions: Audio CD | Vinyl | MP3 Download
- Average Customer Review: 129 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 9,066 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
Queen Of Denmark
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Queen Of Denmark
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Denver's John Grant sang with a band called the Czars before moving to New York where he supported Flaming Lips and Midlake, becoming friends with both bands. Midlake then worked with Grant on this, his debut album - a sublime collaboration featuring Grant's unique vocal style and piano-playing skills with Midlake's backing.
Though a number of dedicated followers are already aware of Grant's vocal talent, Queen of Denmark now gives more listeners the chance to appreciate his music.
John Grant had almost given up on music until he met Midlake. The Texan folk-rockers saw the disillusioned former frontman of The Czars live, fell in love with his burnished baritone and elegantly sad songs, invited him on tour and then persuaded Grant to make a solo album at their own Denton studio. Fans of confessional singer-songwriters owe Midlake a vote of thanks, because Queen of Denmark is one of the most deeply satisfying debut albums of recent times.
A key example of the current 1970s obsession among American musicians, Queen of Denmark is a literate and poetic album about being a perennial outsider. Grant grew up gay and alienated from his religious family in Kalamazoo, Michigan and Denver, Colorado, struggled with the overlooked Czars, hid his pain in addictions to booze and drugs, and contemplated suicide. Yet his debut eschews self-pity and tortured angst for wry snipes at old lovers and the straight world, sci-fi metaphors and soaring testimonies to the impossibility of perfect love. His rich, effortless voice has a built-in smile which contrasts beautifully with Midlake’s elegantly miserable blend of acoustic folk, orchestral classicism and the occasional eerie synth.
An ex-lover called Charlie inspires three of the highlights – opener TC and Honeybear is an epic essay in bittersweet loss and male insecurity; Where Dreams Go to Die shows off Grant’s flair for the melodramatic yet restrained love song; and Caramel is a romantic ballad of minor-key majesty. Elsewhere, I Wanna Go to Marz, Chicken Bones and the wonderful Sigourney Weaver excavate key moments in Grant’s past over music that recalls relatively obscure 70s singer-songwriters: Clifford T. Ward, Gilbert O’Sullivan, Jackson Browne and Neil Sedaka haunt this gorgeous sound far more than, say, Elton John or Leonard Cohen.
But comparisons are difficult here. Queen of Denmark transcends the sum of its influences by concentrating on the irresistible appeal of sad yet optimistic love songs, classy arrangements and a dark and handsome croon. Midlake’s only mistake is making Grant’s startling debut better than their own records. --Garry Mulholland
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Oh all right then. Song after song filled with the most gorgeous piano-led melodies, reminiscent of the very best singer-songwriters of the 1970s (a decade it's hard to get out of your head after repeated listens). Marry this with literate, acerbic, often bitter lyrics (don't get me wrong, this really works, and John Grant can be playful as well, see Mars and Sigourney Weaver) sung in a rich voice steeped in world-weary experience but still upbeat.
Queen of Denmark and I have lived together for some years now- why haven't I reviewed you before?- and it's a love affair set to last.
There might be five years left in this decade, but it will have to be a really great album to knock this off its perch.
I have been listening to this for over a month now and it is rapidly becoming my album of the year (ish) as there are quite a few contenders. John Grant wears his heart (and homosexuality) on his sleeve in songs like 'Its easier' which is an ode to love gone sour and the sad realisation of the self deception we all go through when emotions get the better of us. I think there are so many stand out tunes that it is hard to say any are better than others but particular favourites are 'Marz', 'Lepoard and Lamb' and the title track 'Queen of Denmark'. The one that got me hooked was 'Where dreams go to die' which has the great line 'I regret the day you're lovely carcass caught my eye'. I have heard him compared to The Magnetic Fields around the time of '69 Love songs' but I think the comparison ends with the vocal style and an ability to wend humour into evocative music. That said John Grant's lyrics and delivery are far more evocative and all of his tunes have far more depth and resonance.
He made this after Midlake not only encouraged him to do so but allowed him to use thier studio and became his backing band, so I think we owe a great debt of thanks to Midlake for allowing this brilliant album to see the light of day. I can not wait for his follow up and in the meantime I have started to get hold of the 'internationally ignored' The Czars. I nicked that last quote from 'the great film 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch', sorry.
Ably backed up by Midlake this album has enough of their influence to please their own fans, and enough of Grant's own distinctive feel to keep things fresh and original. `TC and Honeybear' is a wonderful start to the album and one of the ones that shows Midlake's influence the most, this is followed up by `Marz' which has a beautiful piano intro and gorgeous vocals. `Where Dreams Go To Die' is one of my favourites and I love the verses where his vocals mingle with the piano and strings. The album closes on the title track `Queen of Denmark' and by the end you are left feeling satisfied and mellowed out by this enchanting album.
John Grant offers up one of those albums that leaves you surprised at just how good it is. His voice and song writing are excellent and coupled with Midlake's influence and support this brings a very polished and respectable debut. One very minor point, and one noted by other reviewers here, is that the liner notes are impossible to read and personally I dislike the cover where those black eyes and blurry image freak me out. But that's just packaging and the music he gives us is superb.
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The support band, Midlake, apply provide the background canvas and little 70s noddlings to carry Grant's brilliant vocal. I adore the Czars albums but have to admit now, that the band's music and Grant's vocal often played two different games (but nevertheless, to brilliant effect). It is difficult to describe individual songs here, so I won't try. Nevertheless there is a lot to be happy about. Grant and Midlake produce some great melodies together and deliver a summery feel to many songs (notwithstanding the dark lyrics).
This is a welcome return from a great vocalist and songwriter, and hopefully acts as a springboard for more great things to come. You won't be disappointed in purchasing this album.
Queen of Denmark is fifty plus minutes of stunning, lush, breath-stopping art.
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