London Grammar fans have been waiting quite a bit for the follow-up to their 2013 album If You Wait. The band’s debut, in my eyes, was great – featuring a slew of solid tracks, such as ‘Wasting My Young Years’, ‘Hey Now’ and ‘Strong’. The main selling point of the album was of course Hannah Reid’s incredible vocals which dominated pretty much every song among the minimalist instrumentation. If You Wait did suffer a little bit from a lack of variety, but the album had enough going for it that I think the band just about got away with it.
On Truth Is a Beautiful Thing, I don’t think they do. I wasn’t expecting London Grammar to shake up their sound in any significant way, but this album almost feels like a step back for the band. Every song on here – apart from a couple of exceptions – amounts to Hannah Reid crooning her love advice over a few piano notes and a very restrained bit of guitar work. The band were very minimalist before, but it feels even more so here – I’d be tempted to say that on some songs like the title track it doesn’t even sound like a band anymore; it’s really just all Hannah Reid.
There are a few good songs here, though I wouldn’t say any of them match up to If You Wait’s best moments. ‘Rooting For You’ is a highlight, with Reid’s vocals being on top form and their being a couple of nice lyrics. Though it’s hard to know if I favour this song simply because it’s the opener – coming before the monotony of the album settles in. ‘Oh Woman Oh Man’, another favourite, features a nice contrast between its subdued verses and soaring choruses. I also really liked ‘Hell to the Liars’; while its lyrics aren’t particularly inspired – ‘Here’s to the things you love’ – the song features a gorgeous outro, which, instrumentally, is the easily the band’s least restrained moment on the album. It takes a while for the track to get there, but the pay-off is worth it.
The second half of the album is easily a lot weaker than the first, with there being a definite dip in quality after ‘Everyone Else’. Tracks like ‘Non Believer’ and ‘Leave the War With Me’ just come across as incredibly meh. Hannah Reid’s vocals are always strong, if not a little bit bored-sounding in some places, but the instrumentation continuously has a muted and restrained quality to it. Truth Is a Beautiful Thing is an album that succeeds in delivering more of what you’d expect from London Grammar but, especially after a four year break between albums, it just feels incredibly safe. I just can’t help but wish that the band took a few more risks with this release.
Best Tracks: ‘Rooting For You’, ‘Oh Man Oh Woman, ‘Hell to the Liars’.