London Grammar – Californian Soil
Hannah Reid and her soaring vocals take firm centre stage in London Grammar’s latest album Californian Soil. The indie pop trio, whose last record was released nearly four years ago, return with their signature blend of ambience, orchestration and electronic dance influences. The ensemble is now headed in a bolder, more mesmerising and ambitious direction, resulting in a satisfyingly soulful and cinematic sound.
Fans will be used to atmospheric productions, but the new collection digs deeper and starts with the wordless and spiritual Intro, chiming bells and vinyl crackling before the addition of a heavenly host of strings. It could have been very easily lifted straight from a movie score and every detail of the soundscape appears intricately designed. This sets the pensive tone before the playlist launches into a compelling titular track that draws clear influence from Massive Attack’s Teardrop, featuring the reflective lines “I left my soul on Californian soil.” Several songs follow a similar pattern of syncopated percussion, ethereal vocal trills and harmonies, lined with hypnotic electronic synths and the odd guitar riff. If you close your eyes, you can almost picture the introspective mirrors of a disco ball gently spinning as it dazzles the room.
Most of the newer numbers are more upbeat than previous releases, further picking up the pace at Lose Your Head which is followed by a consecutive string of beat-heavy tracks that experiment with different sounds. How Does it Feel is poppier and catchier, capturing the emotion of a breakup, Lord It’s a Feeling is a magnetic slow build and euphoric love story Baby It’s You features a kaleidoscope of trance. A stark contrast is shown in ballad All My Love, which is so cinematically dreamy it could be part of the Lord of the Rings soundtrack and shows off the British band’s range. Closer America brings everything back down to reality, crushing the American Dream with pragmatism: “All of our time chasing a dream…that meant nothing to me.”
Lyrically, the compilation feels cathartic, whilst many themes centre around feminism and respond to misogyny Reid has faced in the music industry. By facing up to them as the band’s lead singer, there’s more vulnerability – but also more energy – on show.
Californian Soil isn’t the sunny pop album its name suggests, but rather a grounded record with sonic light and shade. It’s not perfect nor a reinvention, with the execution and climax occasionally missing their lofty ambition, but it’s a repeat-worthy and effortless listen from a group full of confidence and conviction.
Photo: Alex Waespi
Californian Soil is released on 16th April 2021. For further information or to order the album visit London Grammar’s website here.
Watch the video for How Does It Feel here: