What’s The xx’s music really like? It’s cool, yet emotional; soft, yet powerful. One thing’s for sure: Its catchy choruses, sweet bass lines, and Jamie xx’s production have, historically speaking, been (relatively) incomparable, but in an entirely good way.
A recently conceived comparison, however, is finally here. London Grammar is composed of young Londoners Dot Major, Hannah Reid, and Dan Rothman, they’re growing exponentially in popularity, and on their debut, If You Wait, they’re ironically talking of “wasting [their] young years.”
Reid is a reflective, emotionally-driven vocalist. She achingly recounts teenage tales with tacit regret, but makes it danceable when her voice grooves in and out of Major and Rothman’s piano, guitar, and synth instrumentation. The group’s Kavinsky cover, “Nightcall”, beautifully encapsulates London Grammar’s emotional danceability — “I’m giving you a night call to tell you how I feel” — and then contrasts it with “Yeah I might speak so long/ I’ve never been so wrong” in “Strong”, at which point the trio’s exponential rise becomes understandable.
Similar to that of The xx, Reid’s lyrics, when coalesced with the band’s instrumentation, produces an almost guilt-ridden feeling. How can one dance while simultaneously being moved by heartbreak, regret, and devastation? The answer, surprisingly, is simple: We’re humans. We’re emotional and we love dramatic pandemonium. It justifies the gloomier, murkier, and vaguer aspect of being emotional, of feeling disillusioned, betrayed, or vengeful.
The line “Hey now/ letters burning by my bed for you” on opener “Hey Now” introduces If You Wait with a plea of love; Reid calls out the words “hey now” repeatedly, cognizant of the fact that there’s no response, definitely not within the song and likely not within the context of this story.
While the majority of If You Wait straddles the line between impeccable dance tracks (“Stay Awake”, “Wasting My Young Years”, and “Metal & Dust”) and soothing songs that build in size and volume (“Hey Now”, “Sights”, “Strong”, and “Nightcall”), the album closes on the moody, piano-driven title track. Everything is wrapped up perfectly with a repetition of the line “it flickers, flickers in my head” and Reid proclaiming hope for love “if you wait.”
Although The xx parallels are undeniably forthcoming, London Grammar’s innovative combinations of vocal and instrumentation are a unique, necessary progression. Though maturity may not be on the trio’s side, If You Wait argues that staying tuned is vital and that patience is a virtue, and one that seemingly will pay off for Reid and those anticipating what comes next from London Grammar.
Essential Tracks: “Hey Now”, “Wasting My Young Years”, and “Strong”