London Grammar are incredibly trendy. They’ve really captured the musical zeitgeist in a number of ways – a strong female voice, minimal arrangements interspersed with electronic sounds blended brilliantly with guitar sounds clear as glass as well as a plethora of covers done in the Live Lounge ranging from Miley Cyrus to La Roux to Kavisnky, the latter of which, a typically stripped down version of Nightcall, turns up on their ethereal debut “If You Wait”. On first listen, this record may come off as a little one dimensional – there’s not a whole lot of dynamism on the face of it, sparse arrangements juxtaposed with powerful vocals seems to render this album a bit of a one trick pony. Maybe it is, but there’s not a lot wrong with that – as long as it’s a good trick. Having a distinct and characteristic sound is nothing to shy away from and with an atmospheric backdrop paired with infectious melodies articulated through Reid’s husky, beguiling vocals, London Grammar have already forged a sound for themselves which allows them to compete sonically with such modern luminaries as Florence and the Machine and the xx.
The album’s strengths aren’t just in its aesthetics; it has a lot more to offer than a fantastic atmosphere and a great singer. Reid’s lyrics are profound without being abstruse, if not a little repetitive; she doesn’t tend to write long stories in her lyrics but prefers to repeat a certain line or phrase multiple times presumably in order to make her lyrics hit home – examples can be found in Wasting My Young Years and Stay Awake. Perhaps some more adventurous lyric writing could truly test her skills in this area so as to bring another dimension to the band’s output. The album has some very high points, with Hey Now, the haunting opening track, and the titular track If You Wait closing the album beautifully, with this track truly testing Reid’s vocal abilities – it may seem this review is just banging on about Hannah Reid’s voice, and maybe it is. But seriously – it’s THAT good. The instrumentation compliments the vocals well, although more layers and textures could certainly add that extra dimension to the music, perhaps some strings or even some brass instrumentation could really take this band to the next level musically.
The production quality of the album is stellar, the band having recruited Tim Bran and Roy Kerr to co-produce a crystal clear album which lends itself brilliantly to the band’s ultra-modern yet ultra-simplified sound. It’s a highly personal, very earnest record. Some might even criticise the band for being a little pretentious, but in truth here is just a band who take themselves very seriously, and have good reason to do so. It’s a fantastic debut, if a little muted at points, I for one am excited to see what shape their musical output takes in the future – a little dynamism could go a long way.