2013 Albums of the Year #6: London Grammar – If You Wait

18 Dec

London Grammar If You Wait

Number six on our favourite albums of the year countdown comes from a band who released their debut track online little over a year ago and since then have pretty much owned the year. Rewind 14 months and the name London Grammar would’ve meant very little to most people, now they are on top of the world with a gold album (which hit #2 in the charts), a string of sold out headline shows, TV appearances, critically acclaimed videos and even their own Radio1-sexism controversy. It’s been quite the year but understandably so as their debut album, If You Wait is a sublime collection of songs built around Hannah Reid’s undeniably amazing voice.

It’s clearly an album that has been considered and thought about carefully and in great detail. Every last note and nuance across each of its 11 tracks is there for a reason. The minimalist arrangements make everything that isn’t there almost as important as everything that is. There are no superfluous flourishes or effects, no unnecessary moments of overblown production. Everything, and we mean everything, is there because it means something to the band, and will mean something to the listener.

If You Wait is built around the divine sounds of Hannah Reid’s vocals with good reason. Her voice is heart-meltingly gorgeous; rich and full of emotion it is soft and fluid like water but, like water, has the power and strength to level a building. It almost doesn’t matter what she sings about, such is the splendour of the sound she makes. That she sings of such plaintive and evocative subjects only enhances the emotional resonance of her voice. She could sing you the worst news of your life and you would still find yourself smiling, washed away on the graceful tide of her voice.

The vocals are not the only aspect of the album though and while they are rightly the focal point, the arrangements and instrumentalism that sit beneath them have been finessed with delicate subtleties and shades that serve to make this one of the year’s best listens. Subtleties like the timid guitar licks that tiptoe tentatively, childlike through the eerie caste of “Shyer” for example. These are moments of master craftsmanship that augments the listener’s experience and gives the songs greater impact and meaning, almost subliminally. For all the praise and attention that will be lavished upon Reid for her vocals and lyrics, the importance and skill of band mates Dot Major and Dan Rothman should neither be underestimated or ignored.

Given that almost half of If You Wait’s tracks have been made available online in one way or another since they debuted, there is an instant sense of familiarity to the album. It already feels like a trusted friend, to be called on when you are in need of aural assurance and nourishment, when you need a little more beauty in your life. It is a groundswell of emotion, rising up to the sky and stirring the soul, sending shivers down spines and ripples of Goosebumps across arms. Particularly during moments of quiet, haunting breaths, like those that give way to a compelling, crashing rhythm on “Stay Awake”, or the simple piano intro to “Sights”. Even the playful, almost calypso beat, that dances through the chorus of “Flickers” will create a frisson of excitement in your ears and possibly even provoke a little soft shoe shuffle while you listen.

If You Wait is a sublime piece of work. Divine even. The simplicity of its presentation, the pure beauty and emotion it conveys bellies the sophistication of its design and the intricacies of the arrangements. It is simply stunning and makes you wish you lived in a cathedral so you could hear the sounds reverberating around the grand ceilings and into every nook and cranny of the ancient stonework as you sit below, enthralled by the sound.

’If You Wait’ is on Metal & Dust records and available to buy here.

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