Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Afternoon Show with Cheryl Waters, is “GMF (Greatest Living Creature)” by John Grant from the 2013 album Pale Green Ghosts on Partisan Records.
Although first emerging as the lead singer of the Denver-based shoegaze/alternative country group The Czars, John Grant’s career has began an unexpected second chapter as a folk-based singer/songwriter who delivers his intimate confessionals with a sliver of snark. A member of The Czars from 1994-2004, Grant took some time off after the band’s breakup, and after spending some time as a sideman, Grant, with the help of Midlake, recorded what would become his solo debut, Queen of Denmark. The album was warmly received, especially in the U.K., and brought Grant perhaps the most critical attention of his career. Ever the adventurer, Grant stuck around after performing in Reykjavik during Iceland Airwaves in 2011 (see video of his session there live on KEXP below) and ended up recording his second album, Pale Green Ghosts, there, co-producing it with Biggi Veira of popular Icelandic electronic act Gus Gus, and featuring Icelandic musicians. Unchanged, though, are Grant’s quirky, oft-sardonic lyrics and pop-tinged instrumentations, which have carved out an identity for him among a sea of bearded songwriters with guitars. “GMF (Greatest Living Creature)” continues the introspective tone found on Queen of Denmark, but as dark as it is, it never collapses under its own seriousness. Filled with floating instrumentation and Grant’s strong, malleable voice, the tune stands as the logical next step from his debut. When Grant sings, “You could be laughing 65 percent more of the time”, it’s a snarky, facetious statement: Grant has more than enough emotional experience to mine from in his songwriting, but he never wallows in self pity, facing whatever struggles – interpersonal, identity, or substance – with a large amount of self-awareness.
John Grant starts a tour behind Pale Green Ghosts next week, and he’ll stop in Seattle to play Barboza on June 20th and LIVE on KEXP at 1PM that same day. Get tickets and more info about that show here, and keep up with John on his website and Facebook. Watch him play “Where Dreams Go To Die” live from the KEX Hostel in Iceland in 2011: