On only their second album London Grammar isn’t getting comfortable. Over the course of this sophomore album the trio start to evolve their sound in startling new ways. Their push away from a more reserved sonic range finds them growing impressively as a band while only feeling a little out of sync on the way they arrange the tracks on record.
As beautiful as ever in their tone, the album blooms open on “Rooting For You” as they dash through their open mix of vibrato and piano, but take some interesting choices in the smaller details. Throwing in guitar and strings on top of a stirring refrain, the track’s constantly building towards these swelling, powerful moments. “Big Picture” slows things down initially, building a pace through a flickering percussion section as it moves along. While a little drawn out, the burst of life in the song’s finale makes it all worth it.
Adding a moody note to their instruments on “Wild Eyed” they push a more pensive sound before kicking into a driving beat and percussive roll that amps up the emotion. Even in the track’s slower moments, Reid’s sublime vocally delivery carries the track effortlessly. After a piano crawl, “Oh Woman Oh Man” shifts into a harmonically-layered beast of melody and blending that makes each chorus a head-bobbing moment in itself.
Playing on top of some time-distorted notes, “Hell To The Liars” soon leans into its vocal driven slow pop-drive, with thumping drums to carry it through. As heavy feelings cloud the background of the track it starts to smooth out into a dark pop grind, with pulsating electronics bouncing in the background. Taking a much steadier beat and guitar tick, “Everybody Else” cuts out the back and forth between swell and sparse tones for something much more rhythmically-driven and exciting, looking to push themselves in the performance instead.
“Non Believer” rolls out with a heavy groove and drum beat, feeling notably more brooding than the earlier tracks. Taking their pop sensibility in the small compositional notes, while also slowly evolving their sound organically through the course of the album, you can feel the confidence in their attitude by the time this track hits its first chorus. Making their Florence + The Machine undertones especially noticeable on the trippy “Bones Of Ribbon” they craft a song that feels comfortingly familiar while having so many weird sonic quirks that it feels fresh as well.
While more passive and smooth at the start, “Who Am I” shifts into a more Austra-sounding slow jam as the elements start to pile on. The soaring vocal line does more than its fair share of work to push the songs viability as it takes every chorus into the stratosphere. Immediate in its percussion and sound, “Leave The War” has a much more gripping sound from the get go. Vocals drive the dynamic swells of the song as its epic pushes feel all to enveloping. The tracks constantly impassioned attack makes each layer feel important and necessary, with the multiple sets of vocals bolstering each other repeatedly.
Closing on the distant “Truth Is A Beautiful Thing” they go back to a more spread out and slow-burning piano ballad. Overtly breathtaking, the more delayed pace and overall less developed sound do feel improperly paced in the overall scheme of the album.
Words by Owen Maxwell