Album Review: London Grammar – If You Wait

This review was originally written for The Oxford Student

‘London Grammar’s debut is as pensive and mature as it is beautifully atmospheric’

Since posting their first single, Hey Now,online in December 2012, London-based (unsurprisingly) trio London Grammar’s debut album has been eagerly anticipated by those aware of the group’s potential. Comprised of guitarist Dot Major, multi-instrumentalist Dan Rothman, and vocalist Hannah Reid, the band’s September release, If You Wait, does not disappoint.

Comparisons to The xx are often made due to the group’s stripped down, minimalist sound; elegant muted guitar motifs blend with echoing piano arrangements, reminiscent of James Blake’s early work, to provide an unsettlingly haunting mood.

The occasional introduction of trippy yet energetic dance beats, combining with the frequent throbbing pulses that underlie most of the album, add to the already atmospheric backing an undeniable sense of purpose, seen best on Nightcall, the album’s seventh track.

Hannah Read’s vocals are truly impressive, not to mention emotionally charged. In an interview with Glamour Magazine, she admitted to writing about ‘who come in and out of my life’; the album’s fourth track Wasting My Young Years is apparently ‘a big ex-boyfriend one’.

She is keen to emphasise that her soaring lyrics are also drawn from elsewhere, however, and as much is obvious to the listener. The songs deal with various psychological aspects of youthful relationships, but successfully delve deeper than the average expression of teen angst.

Dot Major, Hannah Reid and Dan Rothman of London Grammar (photo: http://www.theguardian.com)

Such topics are perfectly brooded over by her soaring, impressively efficacious vocals. Earning deserved comparisons to Florence Welch (from Florence + the Machine), she achieves a playfulness that effectively embellishes her voice’s undeniable power and contrasts well with the diffident backing.

Despite hopes of a Mercury Prize nomination falling through (they do actually appear on the shortlist, featuring in Disclosure’s Help Me Lose My Mind), If You Wait deserves to be seen as one of the most significant albums of 2013. The group’s subtle combination of stripped down introspective arrangements and Hannah Read’s remarkably expressive vocals creates a truly original sound, one worthy of recognition.



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