“What You Don’t Do” by Lianne La Havas | Before I get accused of wrecking childhoods for being not-so-complementary about their choice of pop tunes, I’ll switch to something less mainstream. Lianne La Havas is also turning 30 this year, and good timing, because a few weeks back (calling it “last year” is too much?) I rediscovered this song. I missed the confidence and the swagger of this song; I ended up going back to her two records and enjoyed a couple of hours in bed with them. Is asking “whatever happened to her?” too much? She hasn’t entirely disappeared, but it’s been a while since the release of Blood, and being taken under Prince‘s wing before his untimely death must be a sign of confidence from the cosmos. Lianne, we need you back. Maybe as a birthday present to me, too? [NB]
It wouldn’t be fair to call Blood, the second album from British songstress Lianne La Havas, the “pop record”. Sure, it is, by all means, much more accessible than her debut – Is Your Love Big Enough? may be evocative and enchanting, but it bordered on MOR gloop sometimes. This time she plays with an expanded sonic palette: the dance soul of “Unstoppable”, the irresistible doo-wop of “What You Don’t Do”, all more welcoming but without losing sight of what she does best. The tracks on Blood are still delicate: all the new layers just make it more so. You can still lose yourself into this. However, Blood is filled with experimentation: like in her first record, Lianne is still restless, and some of the risks she takes end up blowing you off (see the surprisingly glitchy “Never Get Enough”). Still, if you’re a fan of the first, you’ll like the second. And if you haven’t heard her before, this album offers something to get yourself lost in. [NB] | 4/5
“Unstoppable” by Lianne La Havas | This came out as I was decompressing from my Taiwan trip, so I guess I have a good proper excuse for missing this the first time. After releasing her folk-inflected debut, Lianne La Havas has appeared in a bunch of places, notably finding herself in the company of Prince. And now she’s back with a new single, the first from her sophomore release Blood, which hits stores in July. It’s a bit of a left turn: more soulful, a bit chunkier, a bit whompier. My adjectives are not making sense. Frankly I’m trying to avoid leading with “I’m getting a serious Jessie Ware vibe here” – I’m not suggesting a rip-off, because this is sunnier, more soulful, and the sort of song you listen to while relaxing in a bathtub at a particularly posh hotel. For a moment you think of nabbing all the toiletries, but this song distracts you. As it should. [NB]
Lianne La Havas doesn’t quite exactly know where she wants to go. Half of Is Your Love Big Enough? is your usual AC radio-type fodder; it’s pleasant, but songs like “Gone” and “They Could Be Wrong” tend to border on forgettable. Leave her alone with her guitar and her smoky vocals, though, and you’re on to a winner. “Don’t Wake Me Up” and “Elusive” show Lianne’s delicate yet authoritative (so to speak) singing. And her guitar playing, yes, it’s divine. To be fair, albums like this make for a hard balancing act – you can’t be so happy, and you can’t be so sleepy – so Lianne’s debut is a good enough effort. Her vocals carry it through, even in the noisiest (so to speak) moments; let’s hope she keeps it that way in album number two. | 4/5
“Is Your Love Big Enough?” by Lianne La Havas | I should have posted this song a month ago. Lianne La Havas was supposed to be my big thing this year until Ren Harvieu came along, so it’s my fault why this song – her next single, off the album of the same name coming out in a couple of weeks – slipped past my radar. And it’s a surprise, because I never expected Lianne to break out her guitar in this way. “No Room For Doubt” show a jazzier side, and “Forget” to a lesser extent, but this one has a bit of a Tracy Chapman vibe that’s both exhilarating and moody at the same time. Consider me apologetic, Lianne.