London Grammar – If You Wait

An album of graceful sophistication.

Label: Metal & Dust

Rating: 7

The shimmering, glacial vocals of Hannah Reid are hard to miss. It’s at the very heart of what London Grammar do, and mean there’s a stillness to ‘If You Wait’ which helps to elevate her voice further, as it shines and controls most of this debut album.

There are worse things of course. Controlled and captivating. though never approaching Florence levels of histrionics (who she is often compared to), it’s a voice of beauty. The xx comparison is a little easier to understand – theirs, London Grammar, is a mature-beyond-their-years sound.

They release this debut album in the kind of odd position that only really the internet era has presented. They posted debut single ‘Hey Now’ online last December, and it’s since had over a million listens online. EP ‘Metal & Dust’ followed in February, they’ve recorded two live sessions for Radio 1, and had a featured slot on Disclosure‘s debut  album all before this.

It means there’s a weight of expectation to the record yet it’s one that feels unfazed by anything other than creating their own world. ‘Hey Now’ fits perfectly as the album’s opener, widescreen and yearning. It sounds good enough to be on ‘Moon Safari’, and is a perfect set up for what’s to come.

It’s ‘Shyer’ which sounds closest to The xx with its shuffling percussion and there’s that same hopeful smudged sunlight lighting up most of the track. Things get a bit more propulsive with another cut from the EP, ‘Wasting My Young Years’, with Reid’s voice winter-like before a thudding beat comes in. It sounds like an early 90s club track and shows why the Disclosure collaboration worked so well.

What guitarist Dan Rothman and multi-instrumentalist Dot Major do best is to never be afraid to leave space in the songs, to make room for that pregnant pause. It’s the restraint which works well. A plucked guitar backs up Hannah’s quivering voice at the start of ‘Strong’, a spine-tingling coming-of-age tale.

The cover of Kavinsky’s ‘Nightcall’ is a nice touch though seemingly unnecessary (though it does remove some of the seediness of the original). Elsewhere the starkly beauty of ‘Interlude’ and odd percussion and backing vocals of ‘Flickers’ are highlights. The record ends with the title track and Reid in the spotlight for the final time as she asks her lover to wait as the song launches off slowly in to space, orbiting slowly.

London Grammar have created an album of graceful sophistication. That it never ventures far from its chosen path makes you wonder where their next move will be but for now this is more than big, tender and beguiling enough.