Every year I mean to write an ‘album of the year’ post, and this year I’ve managed it. The hotly-contested (well, not really) award goes to ‘Grey Tickles, Black Pressure’ by John Grant.

I never really got into John Grant’s earlier stuff, and the fact it was on Bella Union, a label I associate with critically acclaimed stuff that I don’t particularly enjoy, didn’t help. But when I saw the cover of ‘Grey Tickles, Black Pressure,’ featuring a demonic-looking Grant posing alongside some ornamental owls, I had to give it a go.

What I discovered was a delightfully varied and inventive collection of songs, complete with grin-inducing, playful lyrics.

“I made a voodoo doll of you, and I gave it some chicken soup”

“You and Hitler ought to get together, you ought to learn to knit and make matching sweaters”

“I’ve got grey tickles and black pressure, I’d rather lose my arm inside of a corn thresher, just like Uncle Paul”

I’m not sure how many songs have been written about learning to deal with the twin pressures of middle age and HIV, but the title track here is almost certainly the only one that manages to be very funny as well as touching.

The album has a more adventurous musical palate than Grant’s earlier work, with piano ballads, synth-funk and rock all getting a look-in. If there’s one thing it’s got in common with all my favourite albums, it’s that it doesn’t sit still – it’s constantly surprisingly you both musically and lyrically.

I’ve listened to ‘Grey Tickles, Black Pressure’ more than any other album this year and you should try it too.

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