‘Delivering a succession of overwhelming sensations, it’s the most perfect reintroduction to what makes their music so special.’
Re-intro to London Grammar
For the best reasons I’ve always considered London Grammar to be somewhat of an anomaly in today’s music scene. Rarely do they make their presence known, their beautiful releases will often be months or years apart and while their following is in the millions, their socials remain even quieter than the atmospheric softness of their music. Look at it one way and it feels like quite an ironic situation. But look at it another and it makes you feel like you are part of an exclusive – if huge – members only club. Therefore you can only imagine the rush of adrenaline felt when, having released their previous album ‘Truth Is A Beautiful Thing’ in 2017, they, in the most London Grammar way possible, subtly announced the surprise arrival of the utterly stunning ‘Baby It’s You’ earlier this week.
From the very first moment that the mass of glitchy motifs emerge and the rhythmical reverberations of tubular bells collide, you know that what you are about to experience is going to be something truly special. It’s wondrous, otherworldly and thanks to om-esque deep vocals and soaring synth strings, it’s momentarily meditative too. Yes, that can all be achieved. However, with each of those seemingly unrelated ideas converging seamlessly into a delicately trance like, momentum filled atmosphere, it soon becomes incredibly easy to get caught up in the sensations being generated.
Building in the way it does throughout the lengthy instrumental introduction, you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the beauty of the evolving soundscape. It may have only been out a day at the time of writing this review, but the truth is that after a few listens you will realise you’re being drawn to different fragments every time. What is the same each time though is how addictively transportive the sound is. You just can’t get enough of it and with the sudden arrival of the initial vocals we’ve been craving, we’re taken out of our own world and right into London Grammar’s.
Completely stripping back the textural content that has been growing, we find ourselves floating within a much more exposed, near acoustic atmosphere. Instrumentally centred around piano harmonies, it’s the most wonderful contrast to where we were, but vocally it’s a level of beauty we really don’t deserve. It should of course come as little surprise that on hearing Hannah Reid deliver the opening line ‘All these lights are changing, See them everywhere’ we have a reaction that can’t be fully explained, but the immediacy of the reaction is something you can never fully prepare for.
Does it send endless goosebumps across your body? Yes it does. Does it make you well up until you’re on the verge of tears? Yes it does that too. To get the full scale of the reaction you of course have to experience it first hand. But be warned that this isn’t, by a long way, the only time we experience this near uncontrollable sense of feeling overwhelmed. Every line somehow appears to hold more emotion than the previous one, each syllable appears to form a new connection, and with the softest of reverbs, you feel comforted, soothed and even healed.
Reaching the chorus, many of the same sensations can be felt with each delivery of the title centred lyrics. However, while you may well expect this to be the case, in such different surroundings you wouldn’t expect the recurring phrase of ‘You, Baby it’s you’ to connect at an equal level. It does though and even when the initially distanced textural resurgences occur, the vocal floats delicately. To achieve this, especially with the vocals shifting to be among rather than above the accompanying textures, completely showcases what London Grammar effortlessly achieve and what makes their music so incredibly special.
Having seamlessly blended the track elements to this point, the post chorus sees the earlier textures return with renewed energy. Exploding gently into a controlled combination of echoing synth harmonies, cross-rhythm enhanced electro drums and dancing digital flutters, it’s almost as stirring as what has just been. However, while this section in itself would be sublime, in it transforming to set up the sustaining, trance-infused atmosphere, sublime just doesn’t quite cover it. And neither does that word do the remainder of the track justice either.
Working among, yet somehow rising above everything else once again, the return of Hannah’s ever-touching vocal this time delivers an even greater level of connection than before. Projecting the line ‘All these painted faces singing back to me.’ above the aforementioned backing, it really is the most wonderful combination of soft and urgent sounding musical contrasts. Equally, in generating both mental and literal reactions, images of crowds singing in crammed stadiums soar into your mind while your lips move to the lyrics you’re hearing.
How and why these reactions occur so instantaneously and so subconsciously doesn’t matter one bit the fact is, they happen. However, don’t let the immense strength of these sensations trick you into thinking London Grammar and ‘Baby It’s You’ have no more to give, because both most definitely do. In fact, in those very lyrics being set in increasingly connective ways, and the underlying textures providing the most perfect surroundings for them, that teetering sense of overwhelming musicality finally tips you over the edge.
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Featured image used with kind permission of Crowns & Owls