London Grammar – Truth is a Beautiful Thing album review
Metal & Dust / Ministry of Sound
With their debut EP described in The Guardian by Classic Pop’s own Paul Lester as “so tasteful it cries out to be defaced”, and initially touted as “the new xx” – or, in Lester’s words again, “the PG xx” – London Grammar first appear to be doing little original.
There’s a multitude of politely passionate singers out there, male and female, blurring the lines between hipster electro-soul and this kind of music – its mood obsequious, its surfaces polished – that’s just waiting for Ryan Gosling and Scarlett Johansson to get it on to in some stylish, but underwhelming, tear-jerker.
Two significant things stand in London Grammar’s favour. One: they sound unusually sincere rather than emotionally manipulative. Two: damn it! Hannah Reid can sing! These impressions are obviously subjective. They are, most likely, interlinked, too.
While London Grammar are conservative, there’s an undeniable beauty to this album. It shares qualities that drew people to Morcheeba when they first began. But just because similarly polite music has become overly familiar, that doesn’t mean this should be written off.
Instead, one ought to revel in how Reid refuses to bend to the melismatic mores of the day. Her tone is uncommonly folkish, and though she offers grace notes aplenty, she rarely overemphasises them. On Big Picture, there’s an almost Celtic quality to her tone, her restraint matched by her understated accompaniment, the song’s crescendo unhurried.
Oh Woman Oh Man starts as a quiet piano ballad, then explores the same territory as that aforementioned Morcheeba track, and is none the worse for it. Everyone Else is full of picturesque space, drums dampened, taut guitar strings brushed, while on Bones Of Ribbon Reid reaches for high notes against a shimmering backdrop always one step away from tempestuous. And that title track? Impeccable.
Yes, it’s safe. But so is Tom Hanks’ Big. Sometimes fun for all the family is just what you need.