What you don't know about Mr. Grainger, is that he suffers from a condition commonly known as M.E. or Myalgic Encephalopathy. This is a condition in which he deals with a host of symptoms not limited to debilitating fatigue, painful muscles and joints, disordered sleep, gastric disturbances, poor memory and concentration. This causes social issues. Issues with employment and overall quality of life. So while battling this, he still looked into himself and found the creativity to make this album. I have a feeling that music, however, is like breathing and/or oxygen for him. He can't do without it and it's apparent in the overall crafting of this album. But he is more than a diagnosis. He isn't a poster boy for cause. He's a man that's navigating his life the best way he can with what he's been given.
With it's "La, La, La's" and it's effective use of sound effects and synth mixed with live instrumentation - this is a fun quirky song that kicks off the album and sets the over all tone. It's offbeat sense of direction and self helps bring you in and makes you go... ok, I get it.
I simply adore this song. I wrote a feature on it and I think that months later it still sounds amazing. It's going to sound amazing years from now too. It's just this syrupy mixture of small breathless moments and his voice is so amazing on this. It literally makes me swoon.
The Difficult Lies of Us
Starting with a stutter of electro and the slow delivery of the opening verse makes this song an absolute stand out. When the pre-chorus kicks and the bass line gets a little heavier and thuddier it takes the song up a notch. When your expectations are high and you get let down and people just don't understand where things are in your life and they want you to keep up appearances, there are times in which you just fake it to make it. The human condition is a difficult thing to navigate when you're dealing with fallible people and mistakes and lies and other humans. You've got people that want you to be happy when you know it's not so soldier on - until you just can't anymore.
In the States we call them sneakers or gym shoes but they're trainers in the UK. He says, "You need trainers like you need new shoes. And I need new shoes like I'm needing you." Longing. Desire. Unrequited emotion. Feeling like you're not important. Feeling as if a pair of shoes is more important than your contribution to the relationship. Being relegated to something less than is a feeling that we've all experienced in our lives and it sucks and it's not cool but we have to reconcile it within our own existence or it will fester and destroy us from inside out.
With an almost staccato verse juxtaposed against a melodic chorus, this track is full of surprises. The verses are almost rap like and each word is punctuated with brilliance. I would love to hear a remix of this that focuses on that rap like quality that brings it even more forward. The synth is gorgeous in this song. It's simple and it's got a tinny feel to it that is nostalgic to the bossanova or other prerecorded demo tracks on your first keyboard. To me this track is about picking your battles. It's deciding what's worth your time and where you need to place your energy. Sometimes you just have to walk away from a situation and use that energy to steel yourself against what's coming ahead.
Change. It happens. We can't prevent it. It's part of our existence. It comes and it goes and we can flow with it or fight it but in the end it's inevitable. This song hurts me to listen to because of how close it hits to home. I am plagued, every single day of my life, with sometimes crippling self doubt. I am terrified of change. It fills me with dread and I just can't deal with it. Writing this, this very moment that my fingers are flying across the keys - my eyes have welled up because of how very honest this song is.
"What if I crumble.
What if I fall on my knees.
What if I breakdown, forget to breathe.
What if I fail this.
What if I don't understand, will I still be shadow man"
There hasn't been a more honest representation of how I feel every day. But there is another conversation happening in this song that says, it's ok. You can do all of those things but you will make it. You will survive. One day, it will be a brighter day. Things will work out. I had to stop writing this for a minute so I could breathe. I had to get back on track as this song just destroyed me. Now, do not get me wrong, when you actually start to hear what the artist is saying and not just take a cursory listen for the aesthetics of a song; you are going to have a reaction and it's beautiful and it's good and it's what music is supposed to do. So I am grateful that he elicited this reaction from me. It helps me look at my life and realize that with patience and understanding and a will to be; I can be more than my own shadow man.
The Deliberate Inbetween
I needed this song to be a palate cleanser. I needed it to just let me breathe and exist and it did. It was brilliant of him to place this song after "Shadowformerself" because it does give you the space you need to process what had just happened and you're not experiencing sensory overload. Well played, sir. Well played.
Coming back with a vengeance is his ode to the bourgeoisie. But it may be an anthem about the things you fill your head with to block out all the other static and noise. We have the dreams and we have the wants but when the sometimes stark reality reminds us that we won't have the house in Malibu we retreat into our own head and live where the beautiful people are.
This is the culmination of the journey. This is the decompression at the end. The light at the end. It's looking back at what we've done and where we've been and realizing that everything is fine. It's been a journey and it's been hard at times but with the sense of accomplishment that comes when we overcome our doubt and our fears; we can do this. We can be better than we were.
While the album may have an overall mournful quality to it, what we have to remember and pull from this is that if we encounter a situation that doesn't work out in our favor, sometimes the best thing we can do is pick ourselves up, dust off and move forward. It's not that easy sometimes, especially when we feel like we're fighting the fight on our own. But through resilience and perseverance, we can put one foot in front of the other and make our lives a little better a day at a time. I think hope is the overall takeaway from this album. It's the feeling of that long exhale when you've conquered your fear or when you have beaten the anxiety back. It's the relief that comes when you examine what you have put out in the world and despite all that has rallied against us, we know that we have put our absolute best out in the universe and we aren't going to lay down and quit.
Enemy Forward is out today. You can get it at all your favorite online music distribution places. Go buy it. Listen to it and hear where he's been the past two years and see that with hope we can do all the things. Music always doesn't have to be sunshine and rainbows because in between those things is rain. And thunder. And lightning. And it does disturb your calm and it makes you hesitant but when the sun does come back out, so does the rainbow. So we need both in our lives to achieve balance. And when an artist is able to show you both sides of the coin, take it. Use it. Have a cry. Get angry. But learn. Grow. Be organic and never stop. Graingerboy hasn't and he's got no plans on it anytime soon.