Reviewed By Mike Olinger
Last year English trio London Grammar posted their debut single “Hey Now” on the Internet. There was something immediately gratifying about the warm female vocals, liquid guitar playing and industrial rhythm section and by 2013; the song went on to receive over 800,000 hits on YouTube. The same song was also chosen to kick-off their debut album If Your Wait, released by Columbia Records earlier this month.
The buzz has only snowballed since the inception of London Grammar less then a year ago. It’s tempting to pop a hole in the hype balloon that has been fed by a Mercury Prize nomination and glowing reviews from cream blogs like Pitchfork and Consequence of Sound. Their reverb-heavy pop fits a little too well next to the burgeoning Alternative Mainstream and sometimes comes off as a well-calculated move towards that marketplace.
Sounding something like the love child of The xx and Florence Welch, the London three piece do manage to keep an evocative edge on their sometimes overly plaintive songs. Their single “Strong” is particularly poignant in its admission “excuse me for a while, while I’m wide eyed and so damn caught in the middle.” It’s confessional and the narrative lends itself beautifully to the band’s speedy rise to prominence, while lead singer Hannah Reid demonstrates just how powerful her vocals can get.
There are some subtle hints to golden era of 90’s trip-hop on “Strong” and “Stay Awake”, and key track “Metal & Dust” conjures up the irresistible vocal breaks of Imogen Heap. There is definitely a synergy between the rhythm section and the vocals of Hannah Reid, one that is captured perfectly throughout the eleven tracks on If You Wait by producer Dot Major. The majority of the album feels intentionally contained and streamlined, which is a positive for people who gravitate towards bands that can recreate their recordings live. No bells and whistles are needed to communicate the impressive dynamics of this band.
London Grammar has certainly answered the call for a stylish debut. It is indeed a slow building, sweltering collection of translucent electronica that calls out for a winter evening and a glass of red wine. Their melancholy lyricism and soft soundscapes seem to be the thread that connects to the majority of their listeners. If You Wait is a little bittersweet, a little over dramatic, but also lovely and confessional. For such a new group, it is an album brimming with graceful sophistication and the promise of greater horizons.
London Grammar (Facebook)
Reviewed by b3