Tiny Desk

John Grant

Download Audio

17 min 10 sec

John Grant's songs don't mess around: The music isn't complicated, while the lyrics function as darts of retort and thought. His album Pale Green Ghosts is decorated with synthesizers, his voice often drenched in reverb; those tools and textures help make the record strong and everlasting.

So when Grant came to the Tiny Desk with just an acoustic guitarist — and wanted to play piano himself — I feared that the power of the songs I'd come to love wouldn't translate amid such bare sounds. I was wrong, and his music was just right. The lyrics rush forward and hit hard. Try this line from the first song he performs, "Where Dreams Go to Die":

Baby, you're where dreams go to die

I regret the day your lovely carcass caught my eye

Grant is known to some as the singer from the Denver band The Czars, but these days he lives in Iceland. He recently helped translate the best-selling Icelandic album from Ásgeir Trausti into English. Pale Green Ghosts is his second album on his own, though he did have help from the band Midlake when he recorded Queen of Denmark in 2010. The two solo records and much of his writings are deeply personal, touching on his sexuality and his battles with drugs and alcohol. Stripped to its core, this material gets even stronger — and here's proof.

Set List
  • "Where Dreams Go To Die"
  • "Sigourney Weaver"
  • "It Doesn't Matter To Him"
Credits

Producers: Bob Boilen, Denise DeBelius; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; Videographers: Denise DeBelius, Olivia Merrion; Production Assistant: Alex Schelldorf; photo by Alex Schelldorf/NPR

[+] read more[-] less

More From Tiny Desk

Tiny Desk Concert with Mitski Lydia Thompson/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Lydia Thompson/NPR

Tiny Desk

Mitski

Mitski's music is dark and even scary, but glimmers of beauty peek through.

Gabrielle Smith performs as Eskimeaux at a Tiny Desk Concert on July 14, 2015. Emily Bogle/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Emily Bogle/NPR

Tiny Desk

Eskimeaux

There's lighthearted, almost childlike beauty in the way Gabrielle Smith puts words to song.

Tiny Desk Concert with Caroline Rose. Lydia Thompson/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Lydia Thompson/NPR

Tiny Desk

Caroline Rose

Rose plays music as if she's just met her new best friend: It's fresh, fun and enthusiastic.

Tiny Desk Concert with Son Lux Lani Milton/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Lani Milton/NPR

Tiny Desk

Son Lux

The trio blows up its sound by adding off-duty, civilian horn players from the U.S. Marine Band.

Tiny Desk Concert with Kacey Musgraves Lydia Thompson /NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Lydia Thompson /NPR

Tiny Desk

Kacey Musgraves

The country singer plays four songs from Pageant Material, plus the set-closing "Follow Your Arrow."

Tiny Desk Concert with Restorations Morgan McCloy/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Morgan McCloy/NPR

Tiny Desk

Restorations

The Philly rock band's big-hearted songs are stripped down to a few guitars and a MiniKorg.

Tiny Desk concert with Torres Lydia Thompson/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Lydia Thompson/NPR

Tiny Desk

Torres

Mackenzie Scott's music channels Patti Smith and PJ Harvey while hinting at further growth.

Tiny Desk Concert with SOAK. Lydia Thompson/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Lydia Thompson/NPR

Tiny Desk

SOAK

Irish singer-songwriter Bridie Monds-Watson makes the most of a single voice and an acoustic guitar.

Tiny Desk Concert with Shamir Lani Milton/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Lani Milton/NPR

Tiny Desk

Shamir

The singer's disco-infused funk and soul gets stripped down to a lone voice with a guitar.

Back To Top