Album Review: Californian Soil // London Grammar


Following a year of uncertainty, the English indie-artpop band London Grammar have finally released their third, highly-anticipated album Californian Soil. The 12 tracks are a contrasting mix of euphonic vocals and orchestral melodies juxtaposed with electrical guitar riffs and synthetic beats, creating a spectral feel. Following the prevailing success of their 2017 album, Truth is a Beautiful Thing, the band continues to promote lead singer Hannah Reid’s soprano voice, showing her vocal abilities through the mellow beats and despondent lyrics that are key to London Grammar’s sound. And yet, this is the most lively the band has sounded in their career.

The trio continues to play to their advantages, with instrumentalists Dominic ‘Dot’ Major and Dan Rothman continuing to use a variety of percussion and string to create an ephemeral feeling that makes it understandable why the band’s genre has been described as ‘trip-hop.’

Lead single ‘Lose Your Head’ has since racked up over two million views since debuting on YouTube three months ago. With a repetitive chorus and an upbeat tone, the track remains one of the faster-paced pieces on the album, but it still continues to play into the band’s prosperity for harrowing lyrics, with the uplifting beats contrasting the dark song.

‘Lord It’s a Feeling’ and ‘How Does It Feelare standout tracks, both featuring powerful catchy choruses with synth beats that compliment Reid’s voice.

While not varying greatly from previous albums, it does present the band as stronger and more versatile, with the experimental higher energy tracks proving a success and fitting in well overall. 

The vocalist prays on her experiences as a woman in a male-driven industry as a catalyst for the album, telling NME how the prejudice she faced differed from the experiences of her bandmates: “If I’m strong-minded, I’m being really ‘difficult’ or I’m being a ‘bitch,’ whereas for the boys they’ve just got ‘integrity’ over what they do.”

Reid’s new mentality is shown through the sonic shift that’s changed London Grammar’s dulcet sound, which tended to overshadow her vocals, to one that only highlights the strength in her voice. Single ‘Baby It’s You ’ emphasises the band’s new sound despite featuring some of their most vulnerable lyrics to date: “And the crowd is heavy, I don’t want to move/ all these colours in me, but all I see is you.” The raw emotion shared through the percussion-led hit showcases how the vocalist has stepped up to the leadership role within the trio and how the ownership she has taken on allows a break-out in strong, meaningful lyrics to match the powerful beats. 

Californian Soil finds London Grammar at their most musically brave thus far and, with Reid’s new sense of emotional and lyrical freedom, it’s not hard to see why. Her lack of fear of what others think and her stronger mindset allows the music to be at the forefront. Reid is empowered to perform alongside Major and Rothman, producing the band’s most lyrically strong and meaningful album to date. London Grammar’s eagerness to challenge their sound and push their abilities, following Reid’s breakthrough, only leads to more excitement as to what else they’re capable of and what they may be producing next.

Words by Kara McKune

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