“Hold your breath, count to ten, we’ll both take it slow.” –Grant Frazier, “In This Moment”
Living under pandemic lockdown has a time-warping effect. The future remains in a constant state of flux, and the longer daily life goes on in such a drastically altered state, the less familiar and accessible the past feels–so much for nostalgia. Everything comes down to right now, and that makes Grant Frazier’s debut full-length In This Moment pretty timely, in an oblique sort of way. In it, the Charlottesville singer/songwriter brings an evolved production to his rainy-day acoustic pop sound with songs that feel well-situated in an uncertain present.
It wasn’t written specifically as a quarantine album; there are still references to going out on The Corner, sitting on the beach, and other relics of The Before Times. But where Frazier’s 2016 EP Runaway dealt more with reflection and metaphor, In This Moment finds its resonance by going with a more grounded approach. On the opener, “Sway,” he gives a straightforward introduction to the project, in his butter-smooth croon: ”I hope that you can sway for me, baby / I hope that you can stay for a while.” It acts as an invitation to stop what you’re doing and get into the record’s quiet groove–acoustic guitar accented here by nice, warm brass, provided by Rusty Smith and Charles Owens, as well as Frazier himself on the trombone.
When he announced the track list on Facebook, he numbered each of its songs with an hour from 1:00 to 12:00. Listening track by track, the clock correlation isn’t so on-the-nose, but you can hear the slow passage of time in the way Frazier starts to open up. He sticks most of the upbeat numbers near the top, digging into progressively more personal places later; “Anxiety” solidifies the shift. It finds Frazier literally watching the hours tick by, paralyzed by stress, struggling with feelings of powerlessness. (How’s that for timely?) As catchy as it is, you can hear hints of tension in Daniel Faust’s slow, ringing drum hits, eventually building up while Frazier repeats over and over that he doesn’t know why he feels so lost.
Like Runaway, In This Moment has its most charged, memorable moments when Frazier looks to his family, as in “Scared,” built on the loss of security that comes with growing up and longing for the comfort of loved ones. He’s at his softest and most vulnerable there, leaning into his falsetto over light, atmospheric guitars and a barely-there beat–until the instrumental comes to the fore in a cloudburst of emotion. Frazier’s debut showed his talent for simple-but-effective pop songcraft, and it’s realized here in fuller and more dynamic production, credited to Daniel Levi Goans of Lowland Hum. Goans gives everything a sleek, professional shine, sprinkled with neat textures–partner Lauren Goans’ backup vocal on “Help Me Reach the Coast,” for example, or the scattered synth and organ sparkles by Charles Cleaver.
The less introspective stuff hits the mark of the moment too; there’s a melancholy touch in Frazier’s melodies and a sense of calm in Goans’ cohesive mix that makes it just as well suited to a low-key living room dance as it is to a live venue. “Don’t Wanna Think About That” is a standout in that area with its keyboard pads, funky electric guitars by Daniel Seriff, and Frazier mixing up his vocal delivery with a few quick triplet lines. As of the release, you’re probably still better off steering clear of The Corner or the coast, but that’s just as well–you can’t go wrong with a self-isolated sway, and you’ll find plenty of opportunities In This Moment.