Gallant first appeared as a solo musician on 2014’s Zebra, a brief EP that held a lot of promise for him as a performer but didn’t allow him to capitalize on his voice. With Ology, his first (and long-awaited) feature-length album, all of that has changed.
Gallant has the emotional range and vocal timbre of Chet Faker, but with the muscle of Justin Timberlake at his finest. His falsetto-laced R&B croon would be enough to make hearts swoon, but his music has a deep emotional core mired with the weight of his own struggles as a musician. As the period of time between Zebra and Ology might suggest, Gallant is a perfectionist who’s too hard on himself.
On Weight in Gold, one of the album’s particularly strong moments, Gallant sings, “I’m pulling my weight in gold. Call me anxious, call me broke, but I can’t lift this on my own.” The chorus’s backing track is a giant, loud synth that pulls back just in time for Gallant to come back with the John Mayer-influenced line over a subdued bridge: “Oh, Universe, hold me up. You tried your best; is it ever enough when it’s already dragging me down?”
Perhaps the album’s finest moment, and its most memorable for me, is Episode. An old-school R&B rhythm track holds down the verse, and Gallant sings the song almost entirely in falsetto. For just a moment, he feels like Jackson’s heir apparent.
Unlike Michael Jackson, Gallant’s scope is intentionally smaller. He’s not focused on solving the world’s problems with music; he’s just working through his own anxiety and loneliness. In that way, Gallant consistently reminds me of Chet Faker. Both of them are using synths and drum kits to give us modern takes on old genres that never feel like throwbacks or vintage apparels.
In an era of alt-R&B stars primed for radio time as if they were brand new, Gallant actually tries to be something new. And while he doesn’t always pull it off — sometimes he wears his Frank Ocean influence on his sleeve — Ology is admirable and refreshing.