Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Truth is a Beautiful Thing | London Grammar

Debuting in the aftershocks of Florence + The Machine and the xx's initial popularity boom, British dream pop trio London Grammar carries a similar disposition: one that keeps distress just in the periphery but does not forewarn of imminent disaster. Their alluring debut album, If You Wait, serves as the splattered canvas of lead singer Hannah Reid's turbulent teenage memories and as a platform upon which she can open the throttle on her voice, an impressive one that plows through operatic highs and barreling, nearly androgynous lows.

Usually entangling herself in the typical human conditions of pain and longing, Reid nuances London Grammar's tunes with a voice that boasts more stamina than the xx vocalists Remy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim put together but carries a more polarizing timbre than Florence Welch's set of pipes. Capitalizing on Reid's timbre and the trio's defining production characteristics, she and her bandmates, Daniel Rothman and Dot Major, double down on their existing palette for their second go-around, Truth is a Beautiful Thing.

When at their best, the members of London Grammar still sound as if they make music while driving westward at dusk, forever chasing the radiant glow of the sun from under the impending cloak of night. A dark desperation looms over the trio's lyrics, but muggy undertones linger from the heat of the day, melting some of Reid's stern vocal impact. The sustained notes of "Non Believer," for example, are coated with a syrupy, Imogen Heap-style vocoder, and she renders her otherwise heavy voice weightless as she guides herself over the instrumental spurs of "Wild Eyed."

While the album's cooler notes, like the sparse "Rooting For You" or the piano ballad title track may argue otherwise, their cinematic, surround-sound productions are indisputably their most alluring. When aiming for minimalism, the trio tends to cuts away drumbeats, a musical lifeline that keeps pop music in form, and opts for aimless vocal wandering. While the results immerse listeners in a well-cultivated mood, they lack the melodic grip of, say, the Paul Epworth-produced "Oh Woman Oh Man." Building from sparse piano notes, the song soon finds Reid's voice taking liftoff over the groups' most expansive soundscape to date.

With eleven tracks that all spill over the four-minute mark each, the album is an nearly hour-long retelling of the grueling process to find just that – the truth, particularly within a strained relationship. Reid is a woman of few words, usually settling on a few basic lines of lyrics she likes and running them through a captivating melody a handful of times per chorus repetition, but she's effective at conveying her message and exploring a complex heartache. While the truth really is beautiful, London Grammar has proven that the journey to actualizing it is even more so.

Truth is a Beautiful Thing is available now under Columbia Records.

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