Friday, September 13, 2013

London Grammar – “If You Wait”

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★1/2

It’s been a long wait for London Grammar’s debut album, “If You Wait”. For the past year it seems, London Grammar has been releasing single tracks of astounding strength. “Wasting My Young Years” has been tracking to be one of the best songs of the whole year long before the proper full album came out. The result? A perfectly apt album title, promising the best debut album of 2013 if you just could hold on until release day.

What makes London Grammar so great is the way they pull together the strengths of so many artists into one cohesive band. The most distinct part of London Grammar is probably the deep female lead vocal courtesy of Hannah Reid. The Florence + The Machine comparisons are probably apt, but her vocals are more reminiscent of Beach House’s Victoria Legrand most of the time, although she tends to soar more like a gentler Florence. Musically, I dare say a proper comparison would be Past and the Pending favorite The National, which a deft assortment of dark guitar, piano, synth strings, and a whole lot of drama and mood. If you’re a fan of dramatic, string-laden, powerful alternative rock, then you should download this album now.

There truly are nothing but good songs on this album, so I’ll focus on the strengths among the strengths, particularly the unbeatable middle trio of “Wasting My Young Years”, “Sights”, and “Strong”. “Wasting My Young Years” is a pulsating, forward moving song propelled by racing drums, building piano and strings, and a passionate and sincere vocal from Reid. When Reid sings “I’m wasting my young years/it doesn’t matter here/I’m chasing old ideas” over a particularly excellent electric guitar bit, the song strikes an emotional chord. It’s a dazzling and moving track. “Sights”, a slow starter baring Reid’s voice over piano and distant guitar, builds and builds into a goosebump-producing, string-laden bridge. “Strong”, a song about helplessness despite the title’s indication, implores lyrically, but it’s built mostly on the strength of Reid’s reverberating vocals and the dramatic swirl of piano and string and guitar that serves as the songs undercurrent.

I’m purposely going to stop here, because I know I could go on and on about the tracks, and no one wants to hear that. “Hey Now”, “Shyer”, “If You Wait”, “Metal & Dust”, and others deserve attention. And that guitar on “Nightcall”? Interpol would be proud. This is an album for independent and alternative music fans who don’t mind, or prefer, an influx of melody, piano, and drama into their music. Nothing here is overly experimental or earth-shattering, but it sure is executed nearly to perfection and with shocking confidence and skill for a debut album. Hopefully London Grammar will be around for years to come.

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