After a four year wait, London Grammar play things very conservatively on their second album, opting to refine and polish the sound of the first rather than break new ground.
In 2013, London Grammar delivered one of the most anticipated debut albums of the year, If You Wait, stunning the public with their own interpretation of electronic music. Although the trio is often compared to The xx, or even Daughter, London Grammar managed to find their own place on the crowded music scene and become one of the most buzzed bands of the last few years. By introducing a sophisticated and original sound which has become easily recognizable, Hannah Reid, Dot Major and Dan Rothman became an overnight sensation.
Taking their time over nearly four years for its follow-up, on Truth Is A Beautiful Thing we find London Grammar selecting to play to their strengths once again – minimalistic but polished production combined with an emphasis on Reid’s vocal abilities. The album doesn’t fall far from its predecessor in terms of musical concepts, song structures and the overall flavour of melancholia and gloominess. However, If You Wait had the advantage of London Grammar being a mostly unheard of phenomenon. Truth Is A Beautiful Thing should prove the consistency of the trio, but it will do little else.
Throughout this record London Grammar definitely attempt to refine their sound even more, but as the final product reveals, they didn’t quite manage to find the right way to cause a new wave of excitement over their music. Most, if not all, songs on Truth Is A Beautiful Thing do have a certain appeal but the lack of emotional effectiveness cuts through the majority of the record.
The opening track, ‘Rooting For You’ is probably one of the most mesmerising moments on the LP, but owes half of its charm to Reid’s spectacular vocal performance. While the first song on Truth Is A Beautiful Thing resolves in a satisfying way, ‘Big Picture’ fails to create the moment of suspense and becomes simply monotonous. The same argument could be applied to other songs, such as ‘Wild Eyed’ or ‘Leave The War With Me’, which make London Grammar sound tired, uninspired and restrained.
Although, Reid’s voice is a very powerful instrument, more than often it seems like its left on its own to create the atmosphere and guide the listener through the songs. London Grammar sound at their best when the distinct timbre of Reid’s voice is supported by Major’s and Rothman’s efforts, building up the tension with percussion, keys, guitar, and intricate electronic production. ‘Bones Of Ribbon’ is one of the best examples of such approach – the song develops in a steady way, waiting to reach its peak when Reid is joined by denser harmony and more fiercer dynamics. Other bright points on the album include ‘Non Believer’, where the band picks up the pace a little bit, and ‘Who Am I’, which offers a smooth and almost hypnotising melody in the chorus.
Truth Is A Beautiful Thing ends with the title track, which wraps the record nicely with a beautiful piano arrangement and Reid finally revealing that she’s capable of adding a little more dramaturgy to her performance, while interpreting the song’s sombre lyrics: “Could you take my place and stand here, I do not think you could take this pain, you’d be on your knees and struggle under the weight”. While London Grammar’s second album is not a revelation that many have hoped it to be, it does have a certain amount of dream-pop magnetism in it. However, the trio will also need to start relying on engaging the audience in a more emotional way, which they have implemented here in a very cautious manner. (6/10) (Alicja Rutkowska)
Listen to Truth Is A Beautiful Thing here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: album, Alicja Rutkowska, Dan Rothman, Dot Major, Hannah Reid, London Grammar, Ministry of Sound, review, Sony, Truth Is A Beautiful Thing
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