‘London Grammar’s music really is a beautiful thing’
I remember the first time I ever heard London Grammar. It was a few years ago with the release of ‘Strong’ back in 2013. It stood out, because it was different to other music in the charts at the time. It was, in short, electronic, atmospheric, trip hop dance music with a sense of anticipation and Florence Welch-esque vocal. It was a track that always sounded like it was a first listen, every listen. Fast forward to 2017, and this British trio (featuring Hannah Reid, Dan Rothman and Dot Major) are proving to be right at the top of their game with their latest album release ‘Truth is a Beautiful Thing.’ It’s an emotion filled listening experience and one that is not equalled by many, if any other artists at this moment. Prepare yourself, you are about to hear something truly special.
The first track of the album ‘Rooting for You’ is not really what you would expect for an opening track. It’s slow, it’s haunting, and in truth, it feels like a final track. However, what this does is draw you in and makes you curious of what is to come in the rest of the album. As for the scoring – yes this is music which goes beyond accompaniment or backing – it is sublime. The musical touches throughout it are beautiful, with each one working perfectly alongside Reid’s absolutely stunning vocal. Is it risky? Maybe. Is it successful? Most definitely.
Moving to Tracks 2 and 3, we have, one of the most well-known tracks prior to the album’s release, ‘Big Picture’. It is in fact down to this track that my interest in London Grammar was re-ignited as it is quite unlike anything else in the charts. The track is one that continually builds with ever developing harmonies, minimalism inspired fragment melodies, almost orchestral textural layering and effects that bring the track to life from its humble, reserved opening. The main highlight of the track – apart from Reid’s main lyrics – has to be the final minute of the track (not heard on the radio version) where they are used as a texture in amongst everything else. Unexpectedly, it moves you. Equally, Track 3 ‘Wild Eyed’ with its free-flowing, atmospheric sound and soaring vocals lulls you into a false sense of emotional security. Why false? Well put it this way, the change at the chorus literally covered me in goose bumps. It’s stunning.
Wondering where the rest of the album will go, it goes only where it could: In a different direction. This is very welcome and after such an intense experience in the previous track, Track 4 ‘Oh Woman Oh Man’ provides a bit of light relief. However, while it uses similar sounding textures, it is more mainstream. There is clear introduction (which is touchingly dramatic in its scoring,) a steady drum pattern and an electric guitar line which like a bird, takes flight and interweaves among the busy, musical sky. While there is certainly an air of this being a slightly more stripped back track than what we have come to expect, it is just as beautiful, if not more so. Elements of this more stripped back sound carry through to Track 5 ‘Hell to the Liars’ and cleverly help to make you think it’s going to turn into a stadium filler at some point. But it doesn’t. Instead, it is a message driven track which gives the lyrics a rare chance to stand on their own. Don’t be fooled though as towards the end there is what is best described as down-tempo-euphoria which pushes and pushes, sending your emotions sky-high. Quite honestly, it’s an exhausting listen, but for all the best reasons.
Reaching the halfway point, Track 6 ‘Everyone Else’ gives you renewed energy through its use of numerous, jazz infused ostinati which are playfully developed across multiple instruments in their original and rhythmic based forms. There is also, for the second time on the album a more regular drum beat helping you to sit back an enjoy it as track. Does it move you like the tracks before? No it doesn’t and with the intensity of the previous tracks being as they were, this lighter, more relaxed track is, in the context of the album, slightly forgettable. Continuing with the sense of regularity, Track 7, ‘Non Believer’ reinforces this idea with its ominous sounding introduction setting out the beat and slightly predictable harmonic changes occurring where you would expect. However, while it is still full of London Grammar hallmarks, it serves as proof that they can produce semi-mainstream tracks that are just as effective.
Moving into the latter part of the album, Track 8 ‘Bones of Ribbon’, which, unlike a lot of the other tracks, only features a handful of sounds alongside a relentless echoed guitar chord. Unfortunately, for me on the first couple of listens I found myself drawn to this and away from all the other wonderful elements that subsequent listens give you. Unlike the majority of the album, this track requires time to realise just how magical it is, however after realising this, it’s hard to hear it as anything else.
Seeing a return to similar ideas of ‘Big Picture,’ Track 9 ‘Who Am I’ is, in the majority an opportunity to hear Reid’s vocal in all its glory and this reminds you that while some artists may use multiple sounds to mask, this is just not the case for London Grammar. It’s a heartfelt track and perfectly placed in the album as a bit of solace before Track 10 ‘Leave the War with Me’ and the title track, ‘Truth is a Beautiful Thing’ remind you that this is music to immerse yourself in. There is no doubt about it; London Grammar’s music really is a beautiful thing.
Both the standard and deluxe versions of ‘Truth is a Beautiful Thing’ are available to purchase on iTunes now.