The sophomore album is always a tough one. Some artists build on their first work, some change direction, and unfortunately, some tumble and fall after their debut. The good news for Jack Garratt is that he looks to be doing the first one here - but it's not quite up there with the very best.
With 12 songs spanning almost an hour, the average song length clocks in at about 4:45, and though some of the tracks are fully justified in their length, such as the brilliant 'Time', others do outstay their welcome. 'Anyone', for example, just seemed to carry on beyond its limit, diminishing our enjoyment of it. Simply cutting off the last 30 seconds or so would have improved it, and Garratt will hopefully learn that shorter songs can often be just as enjoyable. It's not a chronic problem; 'Get In My Way' and 'Old Enough' are both under four minutes, showing that he can write shorter songs. More of them, please.
With all that said, we must be a little hypocritical here: the album's highlight is the longest song on offer. 'Only The Bravest' is heartfelt, beautiful and glorious in every way, taking the listener on a real journey of self-discovery. It's slow and melodic in a way that most of the album is not, and after nearly an hour of synthy twists and turns (save for the piano-led 'She Will Lay My Body On The Stone'), it's an almost meditative way of finishing the album, relaxing the ears and soul.
The rest of the album is full of little tricks and fills that make up Garratt's own style, as well as vocal tricks such as those found on 'Return Them To The One'. What you end up with is an album that is somehow both mainstream and not at the same time. The undeniably catchy 'Better' is a radio single waiting to happen, whereas 'Mara' is much more proggy in nature and wouldn't suit BBC Radio 1 all that well. On the one hand is 'Circles', a song ready-made for FIFA 21, and on the other is 'Anyone', a song much more complex and unique.
Love, Death & Dancing sounds like a dancer's description of life, their version of 'Eat, Sleep, Game, Repeat' or other slogans along those lines. But is this a dance album? Not particularly. There are dancey moments, but as good as the album title is, just be wary that it's a little misleading. Unlike Lady Gaga's recent release Chromatica, which is a thoroughbred of a dance album, this is much more proggy and melancholic, not often lending itself to the club.
This is a decent effort from Garratt as he looks to establish himself as an artist, but there are still a few kinks to iron out. He just needs to tighten up the screws a bit, make the songs a little more short and concise. A 45-minute album is far more digestible to the average listener than one knocking on the door of an hour. That's not to say he should cut out the lengthier tracks completely, far from it, but there's a fine line, often no more than 20 seconds, between a very good song and one that starts to grain a bit. It's a delicate, delicate balance, but if he can master it, he'll be on to something truly special.