London Grammar – If You Wait (album) (Metal & Dust Recordings / Ministry of Sound Recordings)


A favourite to win this year’s Mercury Prize, ‘If You Wait’, the debut album from London Grammar, is an impressive solid body that radiates gorgeousness and fragility.

The trio of vocalist Hannah Reid, guitarist Dan Rothman and Dot Major on piano met while at Nottingham University. With a sound and style so refined it’s hard to believe the trio only formed last year. In fact, after only a handful of shows London Grammar were signed to Ministry of Sound.

Their 11-song debut has a timelessness about it and although many of the songs are about Hannah Reid’s own personal relationships, songs such as “Wasting My Young Years” speak of the frustrations and reality of the youth of today. As Reid recently said in an interview in The Guardian, “we got to go to university and have a good education, but we’re finding ourselves in a position where it’s impossible to get jobs, and we’re terrified. So many people I know don’t know what to do with their lives.”

But it’s not just youth that this record will appeal to. If you’re in your late 20’s – mid 30’s, unfulfilled and wondering how life got this way, ‘If You Wait’ will resonate with you.

The gorgeous and moving “Hey Now” starts the proceedings. With the sparseness of The xx, “Hey Now” is made up of organ chords, light percussion, and a melodic guitar line that would indeed be right at home in The xx catalogue.  However, “Hey Now”, like the album as a whole, is driven by Hannah Reid’s stunning, goosebump-inducing soporano.

“Stay Awake” and “Shyer” follow in similar fashion again boasting the band’s finely tuned songcraft, sparing instrumentation, The xx-like beats and guitar lines, and Reid’s heartfelt vocal. On the former, a ghostly reverb and delay applied to the tail of Reid’s vocal enhances the atmosphere and fragility contained in their music.

Musically London Grammar’s sound is sparse with each song built around only piano, guitar and textured with synth and percussion while Reid’s vocal has the timbre of Florence Welch but more introspective.

In all honesty, their sound is likely to have as much appeal to Mums and Dads as it will youth much in the same way that Coldplay does. As The Guardian so rightly stated, a few years ago London Grammar might have been likened to Dido “but the legacy of bands such as Alt-J and The XX has meant that middle-class kids singing nice ballads do not have to spend their lifetime stuck in the CD player of a home counties Volvo”.

Back in May we reviewed the stunning. “Wasting My Young Years”, and ever so quickly this has become an anthem. An achingly honest and heartfelt number based around only piano and vocal. Meanwhile pop, emotion and melancholy are all showcased on the stunning, hook-laden “Strong” – guaranteed to form a lump in your throat.

The up-tempo “Metal & Dust” changes the tone of the album slightly as the most danceable and “pop” track on the album. Similarly, the chorus of “Flickers” adds a new colour to London Grammar’s palette with its reggae-influenced percussive rhythms and guitar chords.

With a similar sound soundscape on each song, at times ‘If You Wait’ risks becoming same-ish and plodding but for the most part is rescued by Reid’s vocal melodies which give their best to give each song its own identity. In between stellar highlight tracks “Wasting My Young Years”, “Hey Now”, and “Strong”, as well as “Stay Awake” and “Shyer”, the album does have a few sleepy moments.

All in all, ‘If You Wait’ is a solid debut album, which more than anything hints at what London Grammar are capable of in the future. Nonetheless, make no mistake, this one is sure to blow up in a big, big way.

‘If You Wait’ was released on 9 September, 2013.

Watch the video for “Wasting My Young Years” below:

Watch the video for “Strong” below: