Without Hannah Reid, London Grammar doesn’t exist. If you want to get technical, it was guitarist Dan Rothman who first reached out to Reid back in 2009 when they were both freshmen at University of Nottingham, but it’s Reid’s wholesome voice that stands apart and carries the trio. Without it, you’re left with keyboardist/drummer Dominic Major and Rothman’s minimal accompaniment — indeed graceful and sensitive, but not worthy of all the hype the band has already garnered.
If You Wait
Its debut album If You Wait has already made waves across the UK since its release this past September. Americans can finally join the conversation later this week when the record officially drops in the US.
I’ve been listening to all 11 tracks non-stop for a few months now (thank you Spotify gods). Usually this over-playing leads me to sickness, but I have a theory that Reid’s voice could cure cancer. It’s angelic yet brooding, pure yet fierce, consuming yet ethereal. Her range is incredibly wide, flirting swiftly between a deep chest voice and tragic falsetto. Florence Welch is first to mind, but Reid fills the room with melancholy melodies that swoon with little support, unlike Florence who’s backed by her grand group of Machines.
I don’t mean to diminish Rothman and Major’s role in London Grammar. It’s their subtle instrumentation that is the current under Reid’s soothing waves. Major’s simple arpeggios and distant drumming layered with Rothman’s soft staccato picking compliment Reid from underneath, like she’s the guide and they her aides. They give her powerful voice the support of a defined classical ambience, but more so, the room it requires to breathe and pierce souls.
But it’s Reid’s melodies that keep the album captivating. Rothman and Major’s delicate style on the lead track “Hey Now” is indicative of their style on the next ten, and they never stray too far from the box they’ve defined. Reid’s melodies are distinct, each different from the last, all equally gripping and gut-wrenching, yet inherently similar in some way that may stay best undefined. The album holds together tightly, almost too tightly, and if I had one wish, it would be a song or two that step farther from the band’s glumly ethereal sound.
For that reason, don’t play London Grammar at a party. If you happen to make that mistake, you may find all your guests curled up in separate corners pondering existence and sobbing into their own shoulders at the realization that this seemingly happy get-together is an illusion hiding the blue truth that we are all actually alone and will always be. Forever. It would be quite a forlorn party you see — memorable I don’t doubt — but for all the wrong reasons.
No, instead I recommend London Grammar at night, in the dark, when in need of inspiration, after a break-up or before bed. To be honest, I have this weird fantasy where Reid tucks me in and sing’s me John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane” like mom used to back when I slept in a bunk bed. And lucky for me, London Grammar will be at the Shelter in Detroit April 5. I hope she says yes, because certain voices in this world stand apart.