Tongues Unknown is the musical project of multi-instrumentalist Connor Grant. Born in Chicago but based out of Brooklyn, Grant previously gained critical attention as the percussionist for The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger—the indie-rock band fronted by singer-songwriter Sean Lennon. Grant derived his moniker, Tongues Unknown, from a pamphlet handed to him by a self-described “sidewalk prophet” that told that speaking in unknown tongues signals possession by the devil. According to Grant, alternatively, “tongues unknown” is a way of saying that music is a universal language.
On his self-titled debut album, Tongues Unknown, Grant loops and layers electric and acoustic guitars, bass, mandolin, piano, and drums to create an enticing new sound that is entirely his own. While on the road, Tongues Unknown is a four-piece band, in the studio, Grant plays each instrument and produces the songs by himself. “I usually start tracking as soon as I have an idea,” Grant notes about the recording process being integral to his songwriting, with the musician recording the track on guitar or piano before adding and deleting other instruments as he sees fit.
Take a listen to Tongues Unknown for yourself below, and read on to get our take on this latest studio effort from Connor Grant.
The first song of the album, “Monki Mia Mor,” begins with a lone acoustic guitar soon joined by a crisply recorded electric guitar, bass, and drums. In contrast to the clean instrumental recording, Grant croons through a lo-fi vocal track with a voice reminiscent of a folksy OK Computer-era Thom Yorke. “True Love” is a bouncy, pop song turned rocker that gets listeners’ head bobbing to its refrain, “Love always is true.” The song drifts into a spacey chorus, which leads into a delicate yet soaring guitar solo—proving Grant not only sings beautifully, but he also shreds.
“Birds of a Cage” is a vaudeville-style waltz that lands in a rocky chorus again featuring a rising, multi-tracked guitar solo with Grant masterfully playing over and complimenting himself. As listeners become fully ensconced in the familiar warmness of Tongues Unknown, they’ll be delighted by “Heavy Devils,” in which Grant harmonizes with himself over an easy-grooving yet melancholy tune that recalls Easy Beat-era Dr. Dog. Track number five, “Prickles ‘n Goo,” named after a quote by philosopher Alan Watts, begins with dreamy chimes that soon transport the listener to the darker underbelly of the dream world. Grant sings, “How dare you be so vague? Magic is all a game,” before cresting the song into an acid-rock jam that repeats the question, “What is the color of love?”
“You Crooked Eyeball” takes the listener on a journey, starting off slow and sinking but perking up as more instruments are added with a somewhat disjointed feeling. “Namaste Blue” evokes a Sgt. Pepper-esque world with Grant inviting the listener to “lay you down in colors I’ve never seen before.” The song is brought to a crescendo as Grant loops and layers his instruments to create a complex psychedelic soundscape. “Magdeline” begins with Grant singing over a lone guitar. The initial mystical feel of the number slowly transitions into a grooving rock song. Electric guitar joins with the acoustic in leading to a peaking solo that proves once again (if there were any doubt at this point) that Mr. Grant has some serious chops.
“Roll on Poly” features some of the more inspirational lyrics on the album, with Grant advising, “Roll on Poly, you’re hell-bent so, sometimes you got to roll on.” The piano leads the rest of the instruments into a locked-in groove, and as the song comes to a close, he urges the listener, “Don’t forget your worth.” The final track on the album, “Don’t Go Nowhere” bids the listener farewell with a lulling chorus that builds and builds as Grant takes overlapping solos on guitars and a rag-timey piano.
When asked to describe his music in three words, Grant responded with “What in tarnation?” That about sums it up; Tongues Unknown is different than anything you’ve heard before. Fans of 60’s psychedelic rock and indie-rockers alike will love this self-titled debut release from Tongues Unknown.
Tongues Unknown begins a monthlong residency at The Well in Brooklyn, NY on 9/19 and will perform every Tuesday through 10/10. The intimate setting will allow for special guests to join each week, as Connor Grant will utilize the space for a solo adaptation of Tongues Unknown. Alone, he will occupy the space with looping drums, bass, keys, guitars, and vocals. “For lack of a better description, it is kind of like if Keller Williams was doing a Tame Impala vibe,” he laughs. Sounds good to us, don’t miss out!