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London Grammar - Californian Soil review: a big new sound for a big year ahead

David Smyth
·1-min read
 (Alexandra Waespi)
(Alexandra Waespi)

Nottingham-formed trio London Grammar have big plans for the return of live music, not least two nights in cavernous Alexandra Palace in the autumn and a headlining spot at Hackney’s All Points East festival in August. They’re spaces that require a band to hold mass attention at a considerable distance, and it’s fair to say that much of their material to date could struggle to do that.

Their second album in particular, Truth is a Beautiful Thing, seemed designed to do little more than drift around tastefully in a scented candle shop with its consistently stately pace, muted synths and Hannah Reid’s churchy voice. But double-platinum sales of their debut proved that when they do it well, people love it.

Not long ago The xx escaped being painted into a similar corner by hitting the dancefloor, and that’s what’s happened on London Grammar’s third, too, to an extent. How Does It Feel underpins Reid’s slow-motion emotion with whooshy electronics and beats that pass for lively. Baby It’s You is a delight, mixing a high siren call with an irresistable house rhythm.

Reid seems to have more to say this time as well. America, a guitar ballad with a doomed Twin Peaks feel, is about dreams that don’t come true. Lose Your Head makes it sound like she isn’t looking forward to that big tour, when she sings about “all those parts of me broken across the world”. But musically, she and her bandmates appear more confident all round. It’s a big sound for a big year ahead.

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