Reminiscing on stories from his childhood spent in Michigan, and a formative youth spent in Denver, it also examines the broken American dream of now - while sounding entirely like the product of an eerie, industrial future. As Grant himself mentions on “The Rusty Bull”: “It smells like something set apart from time.”
Occupying a maverick spot between electronic aficionado and crooning piano man - between then and now - Grant’s duality has long driven his creativity, melding together to create utterly compelling listens. His fifth studio album - produced by longtime friend Cate Le Bon - is no different.
Opening with the near eight minute epic title track, Grant presents sprawling futuristic synth dials before percussion halts play and we’re drawn into a slow groover, full of plodding bass lines and peppered with saxophone freak outs. Soon the synths return as Grant’s soft, roaring voice draws everything together in a way only he could.
Boy From Michigan is perhaps Grant’s most character rich creation and as such takes time to get to know, its intricacies and rich narratives revealing themselves slowly.
There is the unnamed figure in “The pink art deco glow of The Cruise Room” (based on Denver’s Oxford Hotel); “Aunt Betty” who features in the Mia Farrow horror tribute “Dandy Star” along with Death and Grant himself, and “Billy” from the deeply melodic track of the same name, that deals with the problem prevalence of hyper masculinity.
Then there's Mike and Julie from the eponymously named “Mike & Julie'': Julie is strong and “shoots from the hip”, positioned between Grant and Mike, with Mike representing a man who wanted to be with Grant before he could accept his own sexuality.
The album is peppered with these kinds of protagonists - heroes and villains. Grant at times assumes all these roles, though no one is positioned as more villainous than Trump and his America - themes violently explored through the surreal “The Only Baby” and the sexualised wealth of “Your Portfolio”.
Boy From Michigan is an intense, involved listen that is bizarre and wonderfully playful even in its most traditional moments. Grant uses everything within his arsenal - his incredibly versatile voice, cosmic pop flares, motorik rhythms, unabashed '80s references, flute flourishes, sax solos, epic soundtrack like scores - but doesn’t ever over use any. A rich variety of moods and textures come together to create something that is all at once calm, comforting, angry, claustrophobic, expansive and nostalgic.