Church bells ring out and then Hannah Reid’s pure, heavenly voice delivers a wistful melody – no lyrics, just “Oooooooh”s. Enter lush strings plus desolate harmonies and this album’s majestic Intro morphs into a cinematic masterpiece, which is bound to wind up as the title sequence of your next bingeworthy TV series.
“I left my soul/ On Californian soil…” – the title track evokes Massive Attack’s Teardrop (feat. Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser), with Reid’s crystalline pipes taking centrestage over a descending, irregular beat that evokes a dripping tap.
Instrumentation throughout serves only to enhance and elevate Reid’s spectacular, God-given instrument: crisp finger snaps (Missing); skittish beats, rhythmic keys and liturgical backing vocals (Lord It’s A Feeling); and synths that evoke The Knife’s Silent Shout (Lose Your Head). London Grammar’s third record documents the experience of being a woman, positioning Reid under the spotlight more than ever before.
Reid admits that while London Grammar were enjoying their extraordinary success, her experience was tainted by a still-misogynistic music industry that denied her permission to be band leader: “If you’re a ‘lady’ singer with an ethereal voice, that old school still assumes that the boys must take care of everything else.”
Opportunities for a cathartic boogie (Baby It’s You) are interspersed with moments of quiet contemplation (All My Love) before the gentle acquiescence of America’s closing statement reiterates this record’s “death of the American Dream” theme: “I’ll just be left here in America/ But she’ll never have a home for me.”
Californian Soil by London Grammar is out April 16 via Universal.
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