I will trust in time that we will meet again
If you wait
Last week I flew from Chicago to NYC to see the band London Grammar perform at Brooklyn Steel. It's not the first time I've made ridiculous travel plans to see a band I like, but those trips typically involved trains and automobiles -- not the Delta shuttle.
In June, London Grammar released their second album, Truth Is A Beautiful Thing, a follow up to their first album If You Wait. The gap (4 years) between the two albums led many fans to wonder if the group had disappeared. I held out hope and have been obsessively listening to the new album since it came out in June.
Going back to 2013, the band grabbed me with their blend of low-fi, ethereal music, sometimes a strange blend of ambient and r&b beats, but it was really singer Hannah Reid's voice that pulled me in. At times howling, sometimes high and often low, Reid's vocal range and its ability to convey raw feelings so powerfully is jarring. She's been compared to Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine but I don't think that does Reid's voice justice. Despite the power of her deepest bellows, there's an underlying fragility to Reid that makes her more nuanced and gripping than many of her peers.
"Straight-forward" is how I would describe the lyrics on London Grammar's first album, and this is by no means meant as a slight. Reid's lines are direct and honest, and she's able to take very complicated emotions and ideas and break them down into their clearest expressions.
Yeah, I might seem so strong
Yeah, I might speak so long
I've never been so wrong
The second album marks a shift for the band, but luckily not enough of one to ruin what first made me love them. If anything the direction has made me love them more.
Relationships, those with others and yourself are still there, but the scope of what Reid sings about has broadened. Allusions to world events (terrorism, politics?) and our dysfunctional society have made it into her world. The maturation of her lyrics actually reminds me of how any of us grows up, discovering that there are forces and processes outside of our interior existence that we can't shut out.
What a day
What a life
What a waste
What I've continued to enjoy on Truth Is A Beautiful Thing is again the simplicity of the lyrics paired with the power and pain in Reid's singing. It gives the lyrics a delicateness that makes the stories she tells all the more real and sincere.
But I'll always have a thing for you
I'd move the earth
But nothing made you want me better
There is nothing I can do
But steal the moon
But nothing made you want me better
Musically, this second album is more complex as well, and what the band is able to accomplish on tracks like "Oh Woman Oh Man" and "Control" is stirring. Their live show in Brooklyn added a whole new layer of sound and energy to the music; while Reid's voice continued to be a driving force of the songs, the band sped up some of their slower tracks, and I found myself dancing in what felt like a thunderstorm of energy.
A small note, but one of my favorite parts of seeing the band live was their on-stage dynamic. While Reid may be the band's leading persona, the group had such strong camaraderie -- teasing each other, looking towards each other for approval on the tracks -- that I again found myself liking them even more. They seemed to be performing for each other and for the stories they wanted to tell, as opposed to mugging for audience approval as other young breakthrough artists are apt to do. For a band that can be relegated into the "dark and brooding" genre, they're such fun to watch and listen to.