It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when we developed feelings for Jamie T. Maybe it was the first time we saw that wonky, bruck-up grin, or heard Panic Prevention, his debut album of 2007, so full of impish moxie. Or maybe it was when we realised Jamie T sings about being a young man in a way that doesn’t happen too often. Not a self-conscious, aspiring singer-songwriter’s idea of what a young man should sing about. Not an aging pop mogul’s idea of what a young girl might want a young man to sing about. But what a young man like us, or like us in our younger days, might sing about. Girls, friends, nights out, and a sneaking fear there might be more to life but, also, what if there isn’t?
And then Jamie T got old. OK, not old old, he’s 28, but old enough for some of the edges to curl, and thoughts of love and death and loss to start creeping into the gaps. It also means his new album, Carry on the Grudge, is quite wonderful. From the moody trip-hop grumble of “Don’t You Find” to the gothic horror of “Turn on the Light” and the blousy, louche romance of “Mary Lee”, it’s a manic heap of styles and genres all folded in together, with Jamie T’s tics – the tightly turned rhyme schemes, the drunken-sailor backing vocals – just about holding it all together.
And while fellow youth chroniclers Arctic Monkeys have gone glam and grandiose, Jamie T has remained downbeat and low-key.
The last track on the album, “They Told Me it Rained”, ends with a soft duet between Jamie T and the young British reggae singer Hollie Cook; gradually the production is stripped back, and back, until it’s just a guitar and two voices, then just the voices. Then they stop, and a chair creaks, and someone stands up and hits the off switch. If it had rained, we didn’t notice.
Carry on the Grudge by Jamie T (Virgin EMI) is out now