Review: Truth Is A Beautiful Thing by London Grammar

Truth Is A Beautiful Thing by London GrammarThere is a lot to like about London Grammar, but you’d be hard-pressed to spot in on their second album. Returning four years after their debut, Truth Is A Beautiful Thing suffers from being too much of the same thing, if not a bit more boring. If You Wake, their debut, got a bit of a pass because of the assumption of birthing pains, not to mention Hannah Reid still having such gravitas in her voice, even if it can be too affecting at parts. But this album, for some reason, feels like a step back in time, perhaps somewhere in the early 2000s when chillout compilations were the norm. (I should know – I went through that phase myself.) They try a few new things, but it gets overshadowed by how the album feels like one of those overplayed (but still good) Air or Zero 7 records from the time. It’s nice, but then you realize this was the sound of almost twenty years ago, and while the record does wash you over, you have the urge, the need, to scurry back to the present. Shame, because, again, the band has something – they could definitely put their skills to better use. [NB]2/5

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“Maybe you should call her.”

“Shyer” by London Grammar | If you’ve been following me on Twitter you’ve probably read about London Grammar’s debut album suddenly appearing in Manila record stores – and widely, at that. (This is why I believe they’re coming to Manila soon.) So, yes, I bought it – it’s one less CD to buy in Singapore – and I played it at home on a Sunday morning. And my mother, doing some chores (I was doing chores too, don’t worry) wandered in and asked me about, well, who was singing. She’s into the ballad-y stuff, by the way – the few artists on her phone include Adele, Tuck and Patti, and because I could sneak her in, Haley Reinhart. Evidently I’m her son: it was Hannah Reid’s voice that first drew me in. In fact, I can’t really see why some would consider her as just the cute one in the group, but I digress. So who was singing? “London Grammar,” I said. She sat on a chair and, in the opening bars to this song, was finally sold. “Put that on my phone,” she told me. I have to get around to that. [NB]

earthings! 2013: My ten favorites of the year

earthings! 2013

Well, that time of the year again, so let’s do what everybody else does and make a yearend list of the best of the year, shall we? But then again, we’re not really a legitimate music blog, so we’re just going small-term by talking about us, us, us. Like last year, this is by no means a representative list of the best music of the past year: these are all, really, my favorite tracks. But it has been an interesting year in music. The girls came out; the dance floor got quiet and merged with hip-hop; and guitar music is, well, still not quite back… but not all that gets a mention. Again, sorted in alphabetical order, my favorites: ten songs that you should soak in while we take a two-week break. We’ll be back on 6 January, unless, of course, surprise gigs get in the way, much like last year. [NB]

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Review: If You Wait by London Grammar

If You Wait by London GrammarEight days into 2013 I declared that Hannah Reid, the lead vocalist of London Grammar, has the best voice you’ll hear sing this year. I still stand by that, but I must add that I don’t say this to undermine the contribution of Dan Rothman and Dot Major: their sparse, simple arrangements – mostly a bit of percussion and some piano, borrowing as much from Massive Attack to the xx to Zero 7 at its quietest – keeps the mood low key while elevating the drama. If You Wait is the sound of intimacy in an empty, cavernous theater. But at 63 minutes long, it just goes on and on; the songs’ power is diminished the longer it goes, the more you realize they’re just playing with the same elements. There’s a respite by the later third of the album (and I mean the Disclosure collaboration that worked on their album but not this one) but you might still start thinking that the record – which The Guardian described as an album for a quarter-life crisis – is all mopey. A little restraint would’ve done wonders for them, but still, for a first offing, just nine months after the release of “Hey Now”, it’s quite impressive. [NB]3/5

“I have a feeling, deep down, you’re caught in the middle.”

“Strong” by London Grammar | Forgive me for attempting to capitalize on the possible hangover from some of you who have watched the xx last night: I will talk about something not-so-completely different today. I’ve written about London Grammar a few months back, when I heard their entrancing first single “Hey Now”. Now they’re slated to release an album – If You Wait hits stores this September – and this new song, “Strong”, has more of the trio’s quiet, sweeping electronica powered by Hannah Reid’s subdued-yet-powerful voice. Is it just me, or does she sound stronger in this one? Someone calling this group a cross between the xx and Florence Welch suddenly seems so right. [NB]