Truth Is A Beautiful Thing
Label: Metal & Dust, Ministry of Sound
Released Date: June 9, 2017
Dominic “Dot” Major: Drums, Keyboards
Hannah Reid: Vocals, keyboards
Dan Rothman: Guitar
The Whole Truth, eventually…
I haven’t had a band crush in quite a while but I’m experiencing a quickly growing obsession with London Grammar whose second album, Truth is a Beautiful Thing (TIABT), was released a couple of weeks ago. It took me some time to get through the entire album because I kept putting the first four tunes into an endless a repeat loop. I finally got past “Oh Woman, Oh Man” – a perfect bulls-eye for my personal taste – only a couple of days ago.
London Grammar lays out a fairly minimalistic soundscape consisting of hints of guitar, synth pads, block piano chords, and percussion. The trio’s arrangements are not typical pop constructions but they are adept at the architecture of heart-stopping-pause-as-hook which is as effective as the most calculated verse/chorus radio tune. Everything appears designed to engage the listener with Hannah Reid’s voice, set like a multi-faceted gemstone in a beautifully polished, but simple, crown.
Epistles with Thistles…
On first listening I was reminded of the material of Antony and the Johnsons, where the instrumentation was always in service of the soul baring lyrics. TIABT gives a similar feeling. It’s as if Reid is singing the thorny and emotionally confused content of very personal letters to an ex-lover. This is bolstered by her method of breaking the melodies into overtly conversational rhythms, not unlike the bardic and folk traditions explored by Sandy Denny in her work with Fairport Convention.
In the husky timbre of Hannah’s voice I’m hearing echoes of Christine McVie, Annie Lennox, and June Tabor. Co-Editor Andy M. hears Loreena McKennitt as well, while “the internet” appears to consistently reference Florence Welch.
That said, London Grammar’s secret weapon is Reid’s strong operatic high range. It is used judiciously throughout the album to punctuate and elevate the songs, such as opening track “Rooting For You.” Its crystal clarity is accentuated in a pool of reverb and languid delay that is sure to please ambience besotted fiends like myself.
Recent videos on YouTube, including their recent Glastonbury set, reveal that the band is besting their studio versions with exceptional live performances. YouTube also reveals the band tinkering with a group of cover versions that, while likely fun to attempt, so far add little to either reinterpret the originals or top the band’s own very strong material.
Since January 1 a succession of singles has heralded the album and culminated in its debut at #1 in the UK charts. The band has been equally popular in Australia since their first album (If You Wait) in 2013. Hopefully my own homeland, the United States, will get with the program when London Grammar tours here this summer.