On the ‘Intro’ to London Grammar’s third studio album, Hannah’s voice instantly lifts and transports you to another realm. It’s dark and dramatically beautiful, and it’s the thread that runs through the album.
The album’s opener and title track, ‘Californian Soil’, sets a Western desert vibe that embodies the trio’s movement into cinematic territory. Sonically moving across landscapes, the metaphorical landscape London Grammar touch on in isn’t foreign at all.
I am young, I am oldLondon Grammar – Californian Soil
And so you do what you’re told
I never had a willing hand
And so you pack up all your bags
‘Missing’ shows Reid at her most headstrong. Here, she assumes higher ground as an outsider – able to rationalise the behaviour of another. Yet Hannah’s strong mentality shifts throughout the record, rising and falling as she writes from different perspectives.
‘Call Your Friends’ is a song about love bringing out the worse in you. It’s lyrically the most vulnerable song on an otherwise assertive narrative. Here, Hannah’s strong voice waivers from cool to desperate as she addresses her “baby”.
So can you call all your friends, babyLondon Grammar – Call Your Friends
Tell them to find other plans
‘Cause I need you tonight, baby
I need to know that everything’s alright, baby
Produced by George Fitzgerald, highlight track ‘Lord It’s A Feeling’, a complex exploration of manipulative relationships and toxicity, confirms London Grammar are poised to deliver those big headliner moments.
I saw the way she tried to hold youLondon Grammar – Lord It’s A Feeling
When your heart was just a shell
I saw the words she wrote that broke my heart
It was a living hell
I saw the way you laughed behind her back
When you fucked somebody else
Pounding, repetitive beats and honest, intricate lyrics ensure that there’s no dancing around the truth on the album’s biggest dance-floor numbers.
Flume and Disclosure influences are heard on ‘Lose Your Head’, a soaring celebration of what it is to be human; classic feel-good anthem ‘Baby It’s You’; and ‘How Does It Feel’ – a satisfying funky alt-dance bop that celebrates the notion of finding revenge in happiness after heartbreak.
It’s been worth the long wait for this dazzling record. London Grammar took a hiatus that elevated them. They didn’t rush, nor did they stand still for too long. ‘Californian Soil’ has expanded the trio’s ethereally beautiful sonic palette, offering a courageously unrestrained honouring of messy human life.