London Grammar gracefully faces the difficulty of the second album, confirming and consolidating their musical and lyrical strengths while taking them even further.
British trio London Grammar – Hannah Reid, Dominic Major, and Daniel Rothman – placed themselves on the musical map in 2013 with debut album If You Wait, standing out from the crowd with their combination of soft yet breathtaking vocals, synths, keys, and electric guitar. The record promised us that if we wait, we will get some great music in the future. And, four long years later, Truth Is A Beautiful Thing topped Katy Perry and Ed Sheeran to land at number one in the UK charts.
With seven fresh tracks and the four singles released throughout the year (‘Rooting For You,’ ‘Big Picture,’ ‘Truth Is A Beautiful Thing,’ and ‘Oh Woman Oh Man‘), Truth Is A Beautiful Thing seems at first just another record about love and the wide spectrum of feelings surrounding it, and the first two tracks enforce that impression. Opener ‘Rooting For You’ is a simple yet powerful ballad that from the very outset reminds us of Reid’s incredible vocal capacities (not that anyone could have forgotten), providing possibly the rawest performance of the album. ‘Big Picture’ then shifts to a post-love mood, reviving the band’s defining rhythmical synth instrumentals.
However, the songs that follow actually open the doors towards the bigger picture of London Grammar’s music, making Truth Is A Beautiful Thing an album that goes smoothly from love to asking many of life’s most daunting questions. Playing with the trio’s more usual sound, ‘Wild Eyed’ repeatedly asks “What are your dreams?” while ‘Oh Woman Oh Man’ touches upon many more questions discussed at length elsewhere. Later on, ‘Who Am I’ inspires reflection more overtly – and you might be able to guess the big question here – as Reid harmoniously blends with a slightly more electric sound.
The middle of the record brings its most intriguing songs. A soft and thought-provoking celebration of life, ‘Hell To The Liars’ sums up how the blend of vocals, guitar, keys, and subtle percussion can send you to another dimension for as long as six minutes. The sound shifts towards a more playful rhythm with ‘Everyone Else,’ but its cryptic lyrics make it one that cannot be taken lightly.
‘Non Believer’ is probably the catchiest track of the album, being almost unusually upbeat for London Grammar. Its lyrics again plunge from mere love advice (“Maybe she loves you and I’m just a preacher”) into life’s most problematic discrepancy (“All that we are, all that we need / They’re different things”). ‘Bones Of Ribbon’ is another solid display of their usual sound: a colourful track both lyrically and musically, especially after it peaks in the second half.
The tail eases us back into slower, love-centred songs. ‘Leave The War With Me,’ although just as uplifting from a musical standpoint thanks to some strong guitar game halfway through, is the most pessimistic moment; the title track closes the circle, being the second sensible love song that highlights the piano/vocals combo with which London Grammar simply cannot go wrong. It’s easy to get the band’s peaceful music mistaken for the kind of music you can play in the background while doing some work. However, as gripping harmony unfolds, you zone out, thinking about everything that’s going on in your life only to get pulled back because of the goosebumps caused by Reid’s soaring vocals. This has been their power ever since their debut four years ago, and I am happy to say it is even more so with Truth Is A Beautiful Thing.
Truth Is A Beautiful Thing is out now via Ministry Of Sound and Metal & Dust