What does it sound like?:
Opening your ‘difficult second album’ with the slowest track is a risky gambit, conventional wisdom has it that you start with a strong one-two [or three] fast, catchy potential hits. London Grammar aren’t known for their fast punchy pop, so what we get on side one is more of a slow burn, five tracks of beautifully crafted, atmospheric, smouldering turmoil. At heart they are a traditional band – voice, guitars & drums, the instruments in service to the voice, subtly framing the words with carefully placed notes, it’s the voice that dominates here and rightly so. Hannah Reid makes a wonderful sound, warm and full and strong. Reid has a well documented fear of singing live to conquer each time they perform, and it’s that uncertainty and fragility, strength and determination that permeate this record.These aren’t happy songs, this record is one of heartbreak and loneliness, of endings. But neither are they confessional diary entries with everything laid out on the surface – If the message is obvious, the circumstances are less so.
Side one closes with ‘Hell To The Liars’ it’s the longest and the strongest track on the record. Beginning quietly, with just piano & voice drenched in reverb, building then falling away, rising again with strings and beats and the message – ‘Hell to the rest of us, here’s to the things you love’, after a couple of false starts the track takes off, the Prague Philharmonic providing the emotional lift, along with circular guitar and chiming piano the track swells to a climax. It’s a beautiful song and encapsulates everything good about the album. Start here, if you don’t like this then the album probably isn’t for you.
The pace is upped at the start of side two, peaking with ‘Bones of Ribbon’ which is quick enough to dance to – almost. The fact that these first three songs don’t open the record points to the importance of sequencing here, songs are placed deliberately. Atmospherically, side two is [mostly] lighter than side one, whilst lyrically keeping the overall feel. The title track ends the record, and we’re back in slow ballad mode, ‘Hide you somewhere they don’t know, deep in my core you know you have a throne’ Reid accompanies herself on piano and sums up the theme of the album with those words – It’s a break-up that doesn’t want to be over.
At the end, you might feel the same about this record.
What does it all *mean*?
Despite what the media would have you believe, the yoof aren’t all shallow ‘everything now’ attention deficit disaster zones, and the album is alive and well
Goes well with…
Red wine, headphones and nighttime
Might suit people who like…
Break-up records, The Blue Nile & repeated plays