Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, you’ll have heard of London Grammar. You’ll have seen their name on the festival bills, and (if the 1,000,000+ hits on YouTube are to be believed) you’ll probably have checked out one of the three singles they’ve put out in the last six months. You might have come across their press shots splashed across the blogosphere, all moody black and white, incredible hair and fresh-faced looks that make you doubt whether they can really have been plugging away for four whole years already. Above all, you’ll probably have found yourself wondering – are they worth the hype?
The good news is – for the most part, yes. The trio’s debut album If You Wait is due for release this week, and every last track is brimming with their now-trademark sparse yet soulful instrumentation, and Hannah Reid’s emotive, full-throated vocals. More than one journalist has compared them to The xx, and on opener ‘Hey Now’ it’s easy to see why. Underpinned by simple keyboards and guitar, Reid’s vocals really are the glue that binds, and she sings every last word and note with a clarity and commitment that is quite electrifying. There have been inevitable comparisons to Florence Welch, but her voice is far more interesting than the hackneyed theatricality of that ubiquitous redhead. This lot are more than just Johnny-come-lately imitators, and the album hums with a love of Portishead and Massive Attack. On tracks like ‘Sights’, and breakout single ‘Wasting My Young Years’, synthesized strings smolder alongside the vocals, with Reid giving us a taste of just how much range she’s got in those pipes of hers. Previous EP track ‘Metal and Dust’ is another stand out; with an infectious trip hop backing, it’s easy to see how this one bagged them so many fans.
It’s a shame that this energy doesn’t quite carry through to every corner of the album; the likes of ‘Nightcall’ and ‘Interlude (live)’ sound a little too like more of what’s gone before. But things pick up again with the jazz-inflected syncopation of ‘Flickers’, before the album plays out on title track ‘If You Wait’. Reid’s vocals soar and swoop through this sorrowful ballad, and it’s a great encapsulation of all that has made them such a hot ticket this year. I just hope that they don’t stop there – it feels like they’ve still got so much more to explore.