The Mercury Music Prize nominees have been announced in London and it’s a pretty mainstream affair with the resurrected Bowie standing out amongst the predictable nods for Arctic Monkeys, Disclosure, Rudimental and Laura Marling. The big shock was the omission of London Grammar’s If You Wait. For weeks, the album has been the bookie’s favourite and this all before the album was even released. Why the buzz?
- “Hey Now” gets noticed by BBC Radio 1. My first Tunecrush of the year was the wistful track Hey Now that somehow got noticed by the tastemakers at Radio 1. Cue much YouTube action (over 800K to date).
- “Wasting My Young Years” gets a Henrik Schwartz remix creating a proper ‘tears on the indie dancefloor’ moment to soundtrack the pretty decent British summer festival season. and in just a few months they’ve sold out gigs in their hometown, had a couple of knockout remixes and become the bookies favourite to grab the celebrated Mercury Music Prize (even before the album was released!).
- Collaborate with Disclosure on “Help Me Lose My Mind”. White hot (and ridiculously young) UK producers Disclosure have had massive success in the UK with their slinky Chicago House stylings. London Grammar guested on what is arguably the standout track on Disclosure’s debut album (which did get a Mercury Prize nomination).
But enough of me attempting to create a narrative that makes sense, let’s just have a listen. Singer/songwriter Hannah Reid’s voice is aching and rings out like a bell in a cold, winter landscape. It packs the distinctiveness of Florence (of ‘+ The Machine’ fame) with the fragility of Susanna (of ‘and her Orchestra’ fame). She reckons she’s “influenced by Motown and Michael Jackson. He’s probably my all-time – you probably can’t hear that, but it’s in there!” You won’t hear it; it’s not there, but that’s the prerogative of the artist. Dan Rothman’s sparse, minimalist guitar is sometimes hardly even there yet delicately rumbles things along. I’m sure he/they are properly fed up of comparisons with previous Mercury winners the xx or Alt-J at this stage, but the DNA is there with the downbeat, heartbreaking, deceptively simple arrangements. If anything, London Grammar are more passionate in their despondence. The rest of the sound is etched out by the wonderfully-named Dot Major (who, as well as drums and keyboard, handles the djembe says Wikipedia). The chords are minor; the production luxurious. The albums sounds like it could have been any time in the last ten years (not a bad thing). These are songs of emotion with surprisingly uncomplicated lyrics. No indie obscurity here, but heartbreak, existential angst and things generally falling apart. Check “Metal & Dust”:
And so, you built a life on trust Though it starts, with love and lust And when your house, begins to rust Oh, it’s just, metal and dust
Heavy duty stuff and few enough youngsters could get away with a song called “Wasting My Young Years” without veering into camp or self-parody, but Reid’s older-than-her-years voice is world weary enough to convince. Cohesive, confident collections such as this sometimes crossover to mainstream success and acquire the dreaded coffee-table status, but if the xx could avoid this, so can London Grammar. After all, they’ve already dodged the curse of the Mercury. If You Wait is out now. London Grammar | Twitter | Facebook