Release Date: Jun 9, 2017
Record label: Ministry of Sound
London Grammar are artists of a fine-drawn intelligence. It's been four years since debut If You Wait was thriving in praise and acclaim - and rightly so; the band's production and humility captured the souls of critics and fans alike. I think the thing that is so enchanting with this trio is how unassuming they pose. They are the truest core of themselves, their silence has spoken volumes since 2013.
Where London Grammar's 2013 debut 'If You Wait' harboured a brooding sense of bombast established from the outset, 'Truth Is A Beautiful Thing' is much more subtle in its delivery - the three and a half years between releases providing London Grammar with not just a new found sense of maturity, but with a more nuanced sense of musicality also. In fact, it isn't until single 'Oh Woman, Oh Man' makes an appearance that the quintessential London Grammar aesthetic is really brought to the fore. This diversification is no means a bad thing, second track 'Big Picture' is more than a little reminiscent of Annie Lennox, while opener 'Rooting For You' is hauntingly fragile for an opening number, setting the precedent for much of what follows.
London Grammar chose not to find it galling when David Cameron declared himself a fan. In 2014, the man who let Brexit happen said he thought the trio were "brilliant", and while Britain cringed on their behalf, the Nottingham-formed minimalists, despite being pro-Labour, remained polite. "How can you stop anyone listening to your music?" asked guitarist Dan Rothman.
Both choices have seen many suffer from the dreaded 'second album syndrome', succumbing to either misguided reinventions or the law of diminishing returns. With Truth is a Beautiful Thing, the follow-up to 2013s If You Wait, London Grammar have done neither of those things. The accent is on evolution, not revolution, retaining the grace of their debut and adding subtle new colours to their palette in the process.
London Grammar gained prominence in 2013 with a memorable appearance on Disclosure's debut album Settle, followed by their debut album If You Wait. The trio is immediately recognizable by its best trait: frontwoman Hannah Reid's dusky, expressive powerhouse of a voice. The music that surrounds her is comfortable and warm; it's dream-pop of a particularly spacious, expansive variety.
To say this album is eagerly awaited would be an understatement. This is because nearly four years - somehow - have passed since London Grammar imposed their distinctive style, and the haunting vocals of Hannah Reid, on a captive audience. We should perhaps have seen the signs for the delay in the title of their debut album - If You Wait - but now that wait is over we are presented with a second album that sees no reason to change the formula.
Second albums are difficult. On the one hand, there is a necessity to build upon the identity provided by the first album's foundation; on the other, stagnation must be avoided at all costs. This push and pull is even stronger for London Grammar, whose 2013 debut If You Wait was such a critical and commercial success (Brit-nominated, going double-platinum), that redefining their sound completely would have been severely amiss, but at the same time there were criticisms even within their first 11 songs of 'sameyness'.
T rump may have quit the Paris climate agreement, but fear not: we can always pack London Grammar, with their endless supply of glacial atmospherics, off to the Antarctic. The trio's second album continues much in the post-xx vein of their debut (think a goth Zero 7). Singer Hannah Reid's voice backflips through chilly, posh-folk mannerisms, pianos are plonked sparely, guitars are twanged languidly in a well of reverb.
T he weapon of sadness will never become outmoded in music. Yet four years after their 2m-selling debut record, If You Wait, the vague, theatrical angst of London Grammar's sound seems dated. Granted, there are genuinely melancholic emotions running throughout - the group have talked about vocalist Hannah Reid's severe stage fright and the band's exhaustion after relentless touring.
In retrospect, the breathless anticipation which preempted London Grammar's debut wasn't so surprising given the timing. Released in 2013, If You Wait offered a sparse yet vast, tastefully gloomy sound at the same time as Daughter's hype train was also rocketing out of the station. The bookies pegged it for the Mercury, but it was beaten out by none other than James Blake.
London Grammar's second album 'Truth Is A Beautiful Thing' mirrors the blueprint of the band's 2013 debut 'If You Wait', marrying understated electronics and synths to transcendent melodies and vocals. Singer Hannah Reid's voice remains the centrepiece, flowing like liquid gold through the intricate soundscapes, shaped by a fragile loveliness, and underscored by a Tolkien-esque otherworldliness. Her voice leads and dictates proceedings but never feels overbearing, with the band deftly balancing the interchange between Reid's vocals and the twinkling keys and subtle instrumentation that envelop it, notably on lead single 'Rooting For You', and on the elegant title cut.