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Album Review: London Grammar – If You Wait

Photo: Last.fm

Titling their album ‘If You Wait’ is a curious move for London Grammar. Initially, it doesn’t ring entirely true when you consider that we haven’t waited that long at all – not much time has passed since Hannah, Dot and Dan broke through into the public consciousness and began enjoying a plethora of support from Radio 1 DJs and tastemakers throughout the country, but in that short period the trio have wasted no time in getting music fans excited about them. A spot of live lounging, a feature with one of the years biggest breakthrough artists (‘Help Me Lose My Mind’ by Disclosure also features on the deluxe cut of the LG’s record) and the anthemic single ‘Strong’ have all been wise cards to play but the most pivotal part of this whole campaign is the final, and most important, piece to the puzzle: the debut album.

Listening to the record through, the title of the album becomes much clearer. Experiencing the songs interacting with one another and becoming one body of music, as opposed to a selection of songs their record label thought might sell, is exactly why London Grammar’s debut is called ‘If You Wait’. This isn’t something that has been tossed out because it’s the sound of the moment and it isn’t an opus rushed out to cash in on the conception of a few decent singles. The album is, evidently, the result of a lot of tweaking and dedication and the waiting applies, not to the audience, but to the threesome themselves. Each moment of sparsity and simplicity sounds beautifully honed and shaped – the whole record excels in it’s use of the breathing space it allows every single sound that is utilised. It’s an enviable skill too – when the slightest growth in a soundscape emerges, it sounds triumphant and huge, but never out of place with the demure nature of it’s instrumental partners.

Opening with ‘Hey Now’ – the entire project is encapsulated. The stunning voice of Hannah Reid wraps itself around the gentle build into crescendo. ‘Nightcall’ employs a similar technique, with the final rendition of the chorus being a gentle giant in it’s emerging trip-hop drumbeat, tapping over the haunting atmospherics that flavour the first half of the song. ‘Metal & Dust’ enjoys the familiar venture into trip-hop and brings one of the most instant choruses, as well as lifting the tempo as high as the record is willing to go. The standouts, however, are apparent from the first listen – ‘Wasting My Young Years’ brings a gorgeous melancholy out in Hannah’s voice and the stunning chorus of ‘Sights’ shows that even at it’s tamest, Reid’s talent is undeniable. At no point does the simple-effective formula get tired and the only negative you can throw at ‘If You Wait’ is that some songs don’t grab quite as much as the others. ‘Stay Awake’ and ‘Shyer’ don’t stand quite as strongly as the other material – their trump cards being played better elsewhere, but even they only suffer from the fate of being great tracks on an outstanding debut and if that’s the only issue London Grammar have, they are playing this music game exceptionally well.

Photo: Last.fm
Words: Simon McMurdo

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