British trio’s beautiful trip-hop crystallises on a stepping-up second album
London Grammar chose not to find it galling when David Cameron declared himself a fan. In 2014, the man who let Brexit happen said he thought the trio were “brilliant”, and while Britain cringed on their behalf, the Nottingham-formed minimalists, despite being pro-Labour, remained polite. “How can you stop anyone listening to your music?” asked guitarist Dan Rothman. “It’s so classist.”
Their second album, ‘Truth Is A Beautiful Thing’, doesn’t try so hard to sit on the fence. The trio have mostly been working with Paul Epworth and Greg Kurstin – producers for Adele – and they’ve polished London Grammar’s already glossy trip-hop up to a mirror-like sheen, more willing to take risks.
Best of the lot is ‘Big Picture’, a symphonic torch song produced by the band with Mercury-nominated electronic musician Jon Hopkins. Here, Hopkins brings into play the panoramic introspection of his 2013 album ‘Immunity’, giving frontwoman Hannah Reid – a singer with the force of Florence Welch and the restraint of Bat For Lashes’ Natasha Khan – her most ethereal moment to date.
Elsewhere, there’s a refreshing amount of stylistic variation compared to the band’s two- million-selling 2014 debut ‘If You Wait’. The tale of distorted anatomy on ‘Bones Of Ribbon’ is punctuated by a weird sample of Reid’s voice; ‘Non Believer’ stomps along with a swaggering, two-beat drum line from Dot Major; ‘Leave The War With Me’ sets gorgeous, reverb-heavy guitar against skittering beats.
Where the album sometimes fails to connect is in its lyrics, especially when they’re front and centre in the mix. Opening track ‘Rooting For You’ chucks out the drums in favour of string-backed soul-searching: “Where did she go?” ponders Reid, “Truth left us long ago / And I need her tonight.”
They’re not exactly expected to diss Cameron in a thunderous, anti-Brexit attack, but they could still say more, or go beyond a default of singing about the complex ups and downs of relationships. Still, that doesn’t stop ‘Truth Is A Beautiful Thing’ from being an undisputed raising of the game. There are ballsy moments – they just happen to be coated in the trio’s signature icy cool.