Every year it seems I come across one album at the last minute that I missed when it was released and it forces its way onto my Best Of list. In 2013, that album belonged to the British trio London Grammar. Their debut album If You Wait was released in September, but I didn't get around to it until my mad December scramble to catch up on albums I meant to check out but for one reason or another, never got to. And I am certainly thankful I did not sleep on this one.
Led by the powerful vocals and lyrics of Hannah Reid, London Grammar bring a dark, brooding sound to their mix of electronic and pop. They've been put into the trip-hop category as well, but they often approach ambient, dreamy pop with electronic music elements. With Reid, guitarist Dan Rothman is the other founding member of the band, with multi-instrumentalist Dot Major finalizing the trio.
There is not a lot of upbeat material on If You Wait, and I can see how that may be suffocating to some. Things start off with the sultry, slow burner "Hey Now" and stay melancholy from there. The album is filled with powerhouse vocal performances from Reid, often on sparse, ethereal ballads like "Nightcall", "Sights" and "Shyer". "Metal & Dust" has as close to a dance beat as you'll find on this debut and it's also one of the album's best songs. But it's "Wasting My Young Years" that I have been unable to shake. A song written about an ex-boyfriend, Reid's vocal work sends shivers down my spine. It's one of my favorite songs of 2013, on one of the year's best debuts.
Favorite tracks: "Wasting My Young Years", "Metal & Dust", "Nightcall", "Sights"
If You Wait was released as a digital download only in the U.S. September 10, 2013 via Columbia Records.