London Grammar: Californian Soil (Ministry of Sound/Columbia) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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London Grammar

Californian Soil

Ministry of Sound/Columbia

May 13, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

London Grammar’s Hannah Reid has made no bones about the fact that the inherent misogyny that’s endemic within the music industry could have driven her out of music for good. In 2013 Reid was at the centre Twitter storm following an oak headed and deeply sexist tweet from BBC Radio 1 asking people to essentially judge her appearance—“We all think that the girl from @londongrammar is fit. Let us know if you agree on 81199 #ladz.” A tweet that became emblematic of the problems women working within the music industry face on a daily basis. Reid began to lose confidence in her own abilities as an artist, feeling constantly undermined by the everyday slights, putdowns, and subtle microaggressions. Reid’s opinion was often dismissed by those outside the band and her bandmates Dan Rothman and Dominic ‘Dot’ Major were taken more seriously with their opinion being given more weight by dint of the fact that they are men. Reid had had enough of being made to feel like a lesser member of the trio and felt things had to change.

However quitting the band wasn’t something she really wanted to do, so she spoke to her bandmates and began to rediscover her voice again, enabling her to take control of her own narrative. The result is the band’s third album Californian Soil—an album described by Reid as the “most upbeat London Grammar has ever been.” I guess that depends on your definition of upbeat. There are certainly moments of dazzling beauty amongst the lavish sounding production. The band’s predilection for trip-hop beats and the widescreen cinematic soundscapes much beloved by Massive Attack remains pretty much intact and Reid’s remarkable voice, which has always been front and center of the band’s sound, remains as potent and mesmerising as ever. This time around there’s certainly a more pop-centric influence at play, which on the whole works quite beautifully.

Title track “Californian Soil”—with the lyric “And they will keep on trying it on/And I never felt the same”—seems to address Reid’s experience of the music industry and she’s described it as being about “being lost in chaos and coming out on the other side.” “Lose Your Head” is a fabulous slice of symphonic pop with subtle Balearic beats, which is according to Reid “about power and control in relationships,” and “Lord It’s a Feeling” certainly doesn’t mince its words when Reid sings with simmering but controlled anger “I saw the way you laughed behind her back when you fucked somebody else.”

It’s a sumptuous album, imbued with lush ethereal beauty and one in which Reid has clearly poured her emotions into. It closes with one of their finest compositions to date, the timeless “America.” It’s a track that acts as a metaphor for chasing elusive dreams, dreams which perhaps weren’t yours in the first place, or as Reid puts it in the lyrics “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.” (

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 5/10


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September 12th 2021

Reid had had enough of being made to feel like a lesser member of the trio and felt things had to change. Tustin Concrete & Masonry Pros