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London Grammar: 'If You Wait' Album Review

Sivani |
March 30, 2014 | 12:08 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

The album cover of "If You Wait," London Grammar's debut.
The album cover of "If You Wait," London Grammar's debut.
London Grammar’s sound is like a midnight blue sky tinged with deep orange, a tropical island in the odd hours of the morning as you wake up to the bleak reality of your loss and isolation. It’s gorgeous. It’s tragic. And after a while… a little monotonous.

“If You Wait” is the studio debut of British trio London Grammar, made up of members Hannah Reid, Dominic “Dot” Major and Dan Rothman. The deluxe version of their album released in the US has 14 tracks, and was released on the 9th of September, 2013.

The songs all feature some combination of piano, ambient guitar, trip-hop percussive elements and - of course - the deep, beautiful lead vocals of Hannah Reid. The album starts off quite slow, with the second half having more movement with its heavier emphasis on percussion.

ALSO READ: London Grammar At The El Rey: Show Review

Overall, the songs leave very similar impressions. Musically, no song ever strays from the band’s standard framework of the plaintive piano ballad, embellished with some guitar and harmonies. Lyrically, too, we hear much of the same: lines alluding vaguely to love lost to the past, or longing for a lover in the present.

From song to song, the imagery remains emotional, laden in the beauty that subtlety brings - but the subject is largely unchanging. As the chorus from the track “Flicker” goes: And every time I go to bed / An image of you flickers in my head / And every time I fall asleep / An image of you flows in my dream.”

“Strong” does tweak this formula a little in its theme that is much more self-centered in its brand of heartbreak: “And a lion, a lion roars would you not listen? / If a child, a child cries would you not forgive them? / Yeah, I might seem so strong / Yeah, I might speak so long / I've never been so wrong.”

Still, there’s no denying that the somber tone that “If You Wait” indulges itself in is one of stunning quality. The band is talented, for certain; on my first listen through of the album, I didn’t even realize that “Interlude” was a live track, hidden amongst the studio tunes.

Reid’s voice – haunting, magnetic and comparable to the lead vocals of Florence and the Machine - makes the album as a whole cathartic to listen to.  People are sure to also compare London Grammar’s downcast, ethereal blend of indie pop to the similarly minimalistic, guitar-driven style of another popular London-based trio, the xx.  

“Wasting My Young Years,” a track supposedly about Reid’s ex, glimmers with an authenticity that makes this track standout among the others in the first half of the album. This track, along with “Metal and Dust” – with its fast breakbeat rhythm - were both tracks from “If You Wait” that fully earn their titles as singles.

However, my favourite portion of this album is the latter half, where “Flickers” shines with its tribal drum rolls and chants, and “Maybe” with its distinct, bluesy piano chords. “High Life” is also notable for its unearthly guitar sweeps and rattling hi-hats.

“Strong (US Radio Edit)” surprisingly keeps the heart of the original track, “Strong,” well intact. The radio-friendly version simply gives more weight to the percussion in the song, making the sound more conducive to, say, drumming your fingers along to on the steering wheel.

“If You Wait” is a striking debut that is sure to peak interest in many music lovers, as it acts as a raw showcase of the immense talent that London Grammar contains. Its only flaw is that the tones it evokes are all monochrome. Having established themselves now as a force to be contended with in the realm of British indie pop, London Grammar will hopefully be ready to test the limits of their sound further in their forthcoming offerings.

Read more of NT's album reviews here.

Reach Staff Reporter Sivani here.



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