Those moments in life where everything comes together perfectly are really what make it worth living. They might be fleeting, but you are lifted to a higher plane and all seems right with the world.
Early this morning, tired but with the day ahead, the sun’s rays gently beginning to kiss the landscape as I began the journey into the office, I finally had chance to put on the brand new album, Truth is a Beautiful Thing, from London trio London Grammar. It’s a record that’s been four years in the making, the follow-up to their 2013 debut If You Wait.
And it is, without doubt, the best album released this year.
As the train made its way to the destination, I closed my eyes and breathed in the music, allowing it to wrap itself around me like a warm blanket.
Everything about this album is simply stunning. First and foremost – and no one can deny this, least of all her bandmates Dominic Major and Dan Rothman I suspect – this record is the showcase for the astonishing vocal talents of Hannah Reid. ‘Voice of an angel’ is a cliche, but I fully expect that the Archangel Gabriel herself would rip out her own vocal chords if she got the chance to swap with Reid.
It’s not just operatic high notes – the first song ‘Rooting for You’ showcases the range of her vocals, from deep lows to soaring highs – and it is a truly formidable weapon.
However, like any weapon, it can easily be misdirected, as a thousand X Factor contestants have demonstrated over the years; fortunately, she never overplays her hand, while every song is given a sumptuous, atmospheric background, with the tracks rising and falling, with textures and dynamics changing throughout. Producers Paul Epworth, Greg Kurstin and electronic genius Jon Hopkins work their magic in subtle ways; every note has been thought about.
What’s perhaps most intriguing about the London Grammar sound, though, is their frequent use of modal melodies; at times, it’s almost like an Indian raga scale. The combination of these with the reverb-laden backing gives the whole thing a truly otherworldly feel.
It’s not all ethereal though, and it never drifts aimlessly on a cloud of dream pop like some of their contemporaries – there’s a clear sense of song and structure throughout, perhaps best demonstrated on ‘Oh Man Oh Woman’, a fairly conventional – but no less beautiful – track.
What wins it, though, are the sheer number of goosebump moments that hit you throughout. Every time you think a song has settled somewhere, along comes a moment that is just truly, inexplicably moving – the swoop down to the ascending chords of the second and fourth lines in the chorus of ‘Hell to the Liars’ is but one example. The end section of ‘Bones of Ribbon' another.
They do not hide their influences: Sigur Rós, Massive Attack, Chvrches, Daughter, The xx, even Clannad, are never far away, but it is – through those modal melodies and Reid’s continually astounding vocal – always their sound.
Truth is a Beautiful Thing is, well, a truly beautiful thing.
Embrace it without delay.