Mojo (Publisher) (p.87) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "'Wasting My Young Years' must be the sparsest Top 40 hit in aeons..."
English trio London Grammar have quietly amassed a body of atmospheric, electronic pop material since they first posted "Metal & Dust" on the internet in 2012. Partnered with an appearance on Disclosure's Mercury-nominated album Settle, the Nottingham University alumni had set the internet hype machine in motion, less than a year after forming. With obvious nods to the unfussy, reverbed guitar motifs of the xx, alongside Hannah Reid's beautiful, emotive vocal ability -- which rises and falls with an alarmingly disarming effect -- the album is a practice in refrain, where each song is pushed to the brink of an inevitable climax and achingly, no further. The percussive production, synths, and basslines provided by multi-instrumentalist Dot Major, build on this sense of drama and urgency and are displayed perfectly in one of the highlights of the record, "Wasting My Young Years." Its throbbing chorus is chastened by the slow-burning synths and guitars that come together with stunning results when coupled with Reid's vocal delivery. The obvious confidence Reid has in her own voice belies the apparent vulnerability in the words she sings throughout, and the piano ballad "Strong" is testament to the loneliness and heartbreak that encapsulates the brooding feel of the album, which conflicts with the almost upbeat, danceable moments scattered amongst "Flickers" and "Stay Awake." They pay homage to their electronic influences mid-album with a rework of Kavinsky's "Nightcall" that unfolds gently into one of the most boisterous cuts on the record. It's no surprise that Reid's strong vocals are at the forefront of London Grammar's sound, and her voice dominates their music in much the same way as Florence Welch's does in Florence + the Machine. However, although at times they come close to overshadowing the subtle instrumentation provided by Major and Dan Rothman, it's actually the intrinsic balance between the contributions of all three that defines their sound. ~ Scott Kerr