Grawl!x is the solo project of Derby shoegaze veteran James Machin (My Psychoanalyst). This debut solo album ‘Good Grief’ is a dreamy pop record with great attention to detail that draws you into a rich soundscape with it’s sweet melodies, hazy guitars and haunting, melancholic vocals.
Heavyweight vinyl LP on Time Travel Opps. Edition of 250 copies.
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See that title not as an exclamation of shock and disgust, but as a celebration of our sadness: it’s ‘Good Grief’, as in the excitement we find in making sad songs and releasing sorrow. For his debut, James M. Machin cites influences such as Julianna Barwick and Panda Bear, artists who use multi-coloured songs, oddly-fashioned textures and even that thing called New Age to air their grievances. Machin’s record is more traditional, a sparkly folk record of piano twinkles and dramatic but conventional compositions juxtaposed by deathly quiet vocal whispers that recall Sufjan Stevens on ‘Michigan’. Even the electronica on this record is pastoral.
For such a full and well-restored record, whose abundance of flourishes are only realised on a second or third listen, ‘Good Grief’ feels dour, quiet and even shy. This might be thanks to the production choices of Machin and Richard Collins, who skillfully make these pretty normal songs sound like soundscapes instead, reducing Machin to the background of his own story a la Boduf Songs. His voice rarely eludes a whisper, and at its most dramatic, it’s proportioned by arrangements with as much loudness and intensity. This isn’t to say Machin isn’t compelling as a centrepiece: on the barren acoustic ditty “Copse”, he recalls Perfume Genius and Dan Mangan in equal measure, realised as an artist who can feel, sing and affect simultaneously. It's just that part of his emotive force is his own near invisibility -- there’s a bit of him missing, and that sounds special.
9/10 Keith Newlove Customer review, 20th March 2015
This is the first addition to my vinyl collection in quite a while, and simultaneously the best cultural purchase I've made this year. Quietly beautiful, emotive and very well crafted. It made me feel totally alive. From the opening butterflies with it's gentle piano and gentle lead into the formidable atlas bear, through to the resolute yet quiet (almost distant) thunder of bumps.In my opinion, James M Machin's vocals rank high amongst today's best. Stunning. If you love music you'll love this.
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