Every era got its own sound. Whenever you risk to take a look back on the history of pop music it has always been a reflection of the time in which it was created. It’s a mirror of that time, may it be the rock’n roll rebellion of the 60s or the punk movement in the late 70s. One of the biggest moments in pop music have been directly influenced by the social situation they were born into. You might wonder by now what British newcomers LONDON GRAMMAR have to do with all of this? Well, maybe because their introspective and sad piano pop represents humanity’s state in a similar way as other examples did before. Dark times long for desperate music. If You Wait by LONDON GRAMMAR offers us this sort of music – and it is simply the best debut album you’ll hear by a band this year.
The record by singer Hannah Reid and her fellow musicians Daniel and Dot arrives after previous hit singles of the group already created a stunning buzz in the music world. The reason for it is as simple as it is true – the music of LONDON GRAMMAR is heart-wrenching, highly emotional and plays in a league of musical quality not many established acts do. If You Wait includes eleven little pop masterpieces, somewhere between the reduced intimacy of THE XX, the epicness of FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE, the simplicity of early COLDPLAY and the cinematic pop appeal of LANA DEL REY. Driven by gentle guitar notes, virtuosic piano play and the sad but simply beautiful voice of Hannah Reid. It’s her voice that makes the difference. With a less distinctive vocal work this might have been a nice little indie-album, with Reid it becomes something else. Hits, probably. But the ones that you don’t mind hearing on the radio.
“Letters burning by my bed for you” … the quiet Hey Now opens this impressive selection of songs with Reid addressing her sadness to a former lover. The upcoming songs Stay Awake and Shyer follow this path. Especially the already known songs mark the highlights of the record. Wasting My Young Years sees Reid’s emotions break free in an epic see of strings. “I’m wasting my young years / It doesn’t matter here / I’m chasing more ideas” – there’s no escape. Strong is simply beautiful and might have the most pop appeal on the album, besides the breakbeat-like Metal & Dust. One great aspect of If You Wait is the fact that the band has no problem in keeping it simple and slow. Vocals, piano and a bit of guitar are quite often everything you need. Beats and strings come quite well dosed. LONDON GRAMMAR are not trying to avoid big gestures but they never fall for their shallow negative aspects. Nightcall, a stunning cover by KAVINSKY’s opening track from the famous Drive soundtrack, breaks down in the middle of the song, only to return with an epic final, build around a simple 90s breakbeat drumloop. But still, it’s Reid’s voice who remains the lighthouse in this stormy night.
Sounds all pretty fantastic, right? But what’s with the already mentioned social aspect. If You Wait is a record that reflects on simple love stories, broken feelings and the endless yearning for something to hold on to. These are dark times, desperate almost dystopian times. We’re looking for something to hold on in an ever accelerating age. While one side of pop music (the mainstream one) decided to blank it all off by escaping into hedonistic DAVID GUETTA-like dance pop, another side opens itself of for a darker truth. And within it there’s not much left to hold on to. At least on the darker days. “And to find just one other / Seems to be the goal of everyone. From the search to the hurt / I believed I can take you on” sings Reid in the record’s epic closing title track. By finding love in a small aspect it might not be that hard to create it on a bigger scale. It might be just a beginning to deal with it all. If You Wait marks a fascinating start, especially for such a promising band like LONDON GRAMMAR. Acting truthfully is also a sort of rebellion – and this album marks the perfect score for it.