For our feature album this week, we are going to focus on Truth Is A Beautiful Thing by three piece London Grammar. Consisting of university friends, the band got their breakthrough in September 2013 when their debut album If You Wait peaked at number 2 in the UK album charts. After four years away, the trio are now returning with their second studio album.
Without wanting to be accused of stating the glaringly obvious, singer Hannah Reid's voice is beyond stunning. What is instantly noticeable about this album though, in comparison to If You Wait, is the increased control that she exerts over her gift. While London Grammar's debut release could hardly be accused of being vocally slapdash, Truth Is A Beautiful Thing takes a more nuanced, contemplative approach with Reid's voice working in astounding synergy with her instrumental accompaniments. In a year where I feel ambient counterparts The xx have been found wanting, it is refreshing to see a group prepared to refine and modify their approach to remain innovative.
Opening track Rooting For You sets the tone with an atmospheric backdrop and near-operatic vocal flourishes. Big Picture, undoubtedly the album's showpiece, is a slow building track with fluttering guitar, soaringly beautiful choruses and a spectacular culmination. In keeping with the album's cinematic feel, there is a sense by the song's end that we have pulled out from the close shot focus where the track begins to a wide angle from which we can see the titular big picture complete with vast all-encompassing melodies. Bones Of Ribbon employs some of the most vivid, euphoric imagery on the album in a track about resilience and human endurance which has more than a hint of Massive Attack about it.
Hell To The Liars, carrying its message of appreciating the good things in life alongside the trials that make us stronger, closes out with a brief remarkable period of instrumental reflection with only Reid's majestically trilling voice for company. Who Am I contains the most pure vocal performance on a song that has almost no reliance on a backing track. Closing and title piece Truth Is A Beautiful Thing is also incredibly stripped back, accompanied only by a simple piano melody for a track that I found oddly reminiscent of Éponine's tragic soliloquy On My Own from Les Miserables. It's haunting solemnity will stay with you long after the last notes have faded out.
What London Grammar have created is an album of musical shadow puppetry. They are a band that very clearly understand that as much can be said in the light spaces of instrumentals (or, on occasion, silence) as can be conveyed in the dark silhouettes of lyrical substance. There is a desolation in the melodies, often basic piano or guitar backdrops, that reflects the loneliness of the songs' subjects. The constant sense is as an observer of a world just out of reach – whether in a relationship or not, Reid's musical protagonists are perpetually unsettled. It is detachment magnificently realised and credit must go to both the light and dark sides of the songwriting process for creating a record with such harmonic solitude at its core. This album also serves to put If You Wait into some form of perspective for me. Whilst I did enjoy it stylistically, it pales in comparison to the sophistication of this release. What felt like a mere collection of songs, an extended EP if you will, now feels like a mere precursor to an album that reaches a far higher plane of accomplishment and gives a much better indication of the true potential of a very exciting band.
Then again, I might be wrong. I am a Musical Moron, after all...
Lyric Of The Week
“But I swear that these scars are fine//Only you could've hurt me in this perfect way tonight”
Realise early promise
Reward our waiting
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