London Grammar have returned at long last with their heavily anticipated third album Truth Is A Beautiful Thing, but this is not a case of coming back with a bang, rather with a droning, disappointing fizzle.
The album opens with ‘Rooting For You’, a slow burning track that sets the tone for the rest of the record. Hannah Reid’s sonorous vocals call out like a siren to “let Winter in”, and so the icy cool album does. This is a record that pulls you into an avalanche of London Grammar’s deep, sombre contemplation and traps you there, cold and alone and snowed under. This track, much like those to come, is highly introspective, with sparse vocals between broken chords creating a stream of consciousness feel; but one that leaves the listener to one side. In the hymn-like track, Reid’s breathy alto soars and falls as she accidentally provides the perfect review of the album in lamenting “all that is left is my perspective, broken and so left behind again.”
‘Big Picture’ and ‘Oh Woman Oh Man’ are the album’s saving grace, switching up the pace slightly and allowing glimmers of hope to slip through the otherwise dreary record. The former has a sense of serenity and clarity, carried through Reid’s supernaturally crisp vocals, and is a stunning example of London Grammar at their best.
However, the onslaught of sadness is simply too much to bear. With each moody track, we hope for a small lift in tone or change of pace, but we are suspended in a longing for a climax that never comes, and after 18 tracks it is simply too heavy and too ‘samey’. ‘Who Am I’ sounds like ‘Big Picture: Part Two’, using an astoundingly similar melody in the opening, and Hannah Reid’s vocals, as stunning as they are, are stifled when they are constricted to the same slow and steady tempo in each song. In ‘What A Day’, she throatily cries of the oncoming “rain and thunder, here comes, it pulls you under’, and we are pulled under right with her.
After four long years, this album feels like London Grammar are still in the depths of their hibernation as a group, not yet quite ready for their return. Truth Is a Beautiful Thing forces us to sit in their sadness, awaiting some sort of release but to no avail. In this record, London Grammar have isolated themselves in their self-indulgent apathy, with songs so stripped back and bare that they leave the album so cold it’s almost lacking a heartbeat.