London Grammar
Californian Soil


3.5
great

Review

by Jesper L. CONTRIBUTOR (65 Reviews)
April 20th, 2021 | 19 replies


Release Date: 04/16/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Playing catch up

Truth is a Beautiful Thing was an unfortunate sophomore slump for London Grammar. While it’s a perfectly fine record on its own merits, it committed the unfortunate and unforgivable crime of diminishing the magic of the band’s debut full length. By putting forth a very similar, albeit less memorable record, Truth… exposed the fact that the British indie outfit tend to function as little more than a perfectly competent, albeit somewhat shallow vehicle for Hannah Reid’s incredible vocals. Thankfully, Californian Soil finds the other members playing catch up, resulting in their strongest outing yet, even if it occasionally misses the mark.

While the title track demarcates a somewhat dispiriting start to the record, offering four minutes so heavily inspired by Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrop’ that Yellowcard would undoubtedly sue, there are much worse songs to semi-successfully imitate. More importantly, the derivative opener adds a delicate splash of colour to London Grammar’s palette; something the band manages to operationalise tastefully throughout the record. By positioning two of the band’s most daring and memorable songs right in the middle of the track list, Californian Soil wraps its unexpectedly explosive moments in a comfortable blanket of cautiously experimental indie pop. This structuring does the album a world of favours: whereas previous outings had a tendency of petering out, the London Grammar of 2021 manages to keep listeners on the edge of their king size couches, calmly guiding songs in not-entirely-anticipated directions.

These two highlights, ‘How Does It Feel’ and ‘Baby It’s You’, are brimming with palpable energy. Induced by all members alike, the band find themselves in the middle of an unfamiliarly congested sonic playground, which they manage to embrace. Rather than letting her voice dwindle in gorgeous placidity, Reid bounces off peppy beats and explores new ways to weave her angelic tones into the framework. The more agile atmospheres found in this middle section are a welcome change of pace, not merely for Californian Soil, but for London Grammar in general. The path to these two verified bangers is a bit bumpy, if not consistently pleasant. ‘Missing’ and ‘Lord It’s A Feeling’ carefully tread around their respective neo soul and trip hop inclinations, seemingly apprehensive to properly dig in, resulting in somewhat superficially catchy numbers that could have benefitted from more indulgence and experimentation.

Thankfully, the closing portion of the record is more rewarding. ‘Call Your Friends’ feels like a successful update of the classic London Grammar sound, interpolating their newfound love for calmly glitchy aesthetics with the laid-back, dream-like pop of previous releases. Even more impressively, ‘I Need The Night’ presents a genuinely uplifting drinking anthem that won’t leave you feeling hungover, in spite of its lyrical clumsiness. Such potential issues are best exemplified on the wistful ‘America’; while Reid’s twisting of phrases may be a bit of an acquired taste, none of the lyrics on Californian Soil are poorly written or uninteresting per se. The aforementioned closing track touches upon the album’s main theme of fame’s hardships one last time, wrapping such struggles in vaguely appealing Bono-isms: “all of our time chasing America / But she never had a home for me / All of our time chasing a dream / A dream that meant nothing to me”.

Californian Soil is an exciting new chapter for a consistently underachieving band. While showcasing some growing pains, the record presents a handful of gems in a satisfyingly structured package. London Grammar is undoubtedly capable of much more: with some refinements and the confidence to fully and tastefully embrace novel sonic textures, they could craft a truly outstanding record. Until then, this album is another highly engaging helping of Hannah Reid’s voice, and who would say no to that?



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user ratings (21)
3.2
good


Comments:Add a Comment 
JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
April 20th 2021


2921 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

fyi this is their best album and every single one of their albums is a 3.5, lol

check the livestream show thingy they did for this album, it's v beautiful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0g4TtI_XTM

Digging: Porter Robinson - Nurture

NorthernSkylark
April 20th 2021


11267 Comments


I’ll be checking this later. Never heard em’ but I think they warmed up for a band I went to see but now I can’t for life of me remember which... prob some very cool indie act tho.

Digging: Matt Sweeney and Bonnie Prince Billy - Superwolves

NorthernSkylark
April 20th 2021


11267 Comments


Also I think you’re a contra

SteakByrnes
April 20th 2021


23467 Comments


Hey Jesper ily nice review might check this

Digging: Hail the Sun - New Age Filth

JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
April 20th 2021


2921 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

reckon you'll be able to get something out of this sky! and.. i'm a what now, haha?

thx steaky ily2

NorthernSkylark
April 20th 2021


11267 Comments


check vampire weekend and you’ll find out.

Ecnalzen
April 20th 2021


10828 Comments


I love her voice so much. Interested to hear what they have got going on this time around. Hopefully, a little more variation in the inst dept

I have Truth but I guess I never gave it enough listens to throw a rating on it. Really enjoy If You Wait, tho

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
April 21st 2021


24299 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

"I love her voice so much. " [2]



Nice write up Jesp. They can't seem to get to 4.5 territory, and I wish they'd do.

Digging: Arabrot - Norwegian Gothic

Mythodea
April 21st 2021


6059 Comments


To me, their first two albums are both awesome and always find some rtelaxing afternoons to jam them. They've stayed with me. Today I'm discovering this one.

JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
April 21st 2021


2921 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

one day i'll stop being a whiny lil bitch and get around to vampire weekend haha

thx dewi! perhaps once they're not ass massively popular they'll get around to idk releasing a sick shoegaze record or smth

Mort.
April 21st 2021


16362 Comments


'so heavily inspired by Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrop’ that Yellowcard would undoubtedly sue,'


yellowcard? i dont get this, what am i missing?

Digging: Glenn Branca - The Ascension

JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
April 21st 2021


2921 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/yellowcard-juice-wrld-lucid-dreams-lawsuit-dropped-1034665/

Mort.
April 21st 2021


16362 Comments


ah thanks Jesper

PistolPete
April 22nd 2021


5247 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great review!



This one fits nice and snug between the other two. If You Wait was stunning back in the day

Digging: Kauan - Ice Fleet

Pangea
April 22nd 2021


6366 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

yeah kinda what i expected. pretty good but nothing outstanding

Digging: Charles Mingus - Tijuana Moods

JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
April 22nd 2021


2921 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

cheers pistol!

glad you both found something to enjoy :]

Divaman
April 22nd 2021


10317 Comments


I was disappointed by their last one. Think I'm going to give this one a pass.

Digging: Grouplove - This Is This

Mythodea
April 24th 2021


6059 Comments


Their sophomore album was a bore for me for a long time. I'd see it on my phone's music library and I would sigh disappointed, continuing searching for something to listen to. Then I realized I like more than one song. And then a melody would stick with me, and eventually it became as enjoyable as their debut.

I'm giving this one time. Still nothing has wowed me, some good moments here and there, but I'm willing to give it time.

BenThatsMyJamin
April 24th 2021


3843 Comments


t/t is decent but -1 for rhyming 'soul' with 'soil'



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