London born singer-songwriter Lianne La Havas returns after nearly five years with the follow up to 2015’s ‘Blood’. Making a name for herself after her high profile collaborations, first being a back up singer for Paloma Faith on her Faith tour. And then then featuring heavily on Prince’s 2014 album ‘Art Official Age’, La Havas has now returned with an album thats every part her. Building from deeply intimate emotions and thoughts, to retrospective musings on her love life and the longing of it.
There are huge moments of grandeur laced throughout this album. Opener ‘Bittersweet’ dances through elements of soul and R&B, with the staccato piano hits and a driving groove as La Havras’ voice powers through the mix with her hugely powerful bellows of ‘Bittersweet summer rain, I’m born again’. And the track ‘Weird Fishes’ that glides through woozy synthesisers, swaying harmonies and its pounding bass line. Breaking down into an intimate vocal chorus, until a huge medley of rising synths, pounding beats and La Havas’ soaring vocals slowly build to its euphoric heights. A common aspect throughout this album being La Havas’ dynamic and punchy vocal performance, wether it be to the roaring heights of the most lively moments, or when she’s more hushed and intimate. In every occasion they still showcase the incredible range and emotion put into them.
These moments of a more intimate sound also allow La Havas’ songwriting to become more intimate. ‘Courage’ drifts through melodic guitar lines, hushed vocals and eventually adds just a flavour of violins. But delve into the lyrics and La Havas’ is speaking about the feeling of realising you’re alone, and admitting it to yourself. “Courage, save me somehow, This is the only way out, So lonely now, Love is the only way down”. It’s through these deeply personal stories that her storytelling ability really comes into its own. Many themes explored are that of love and passion, and the song ‘Can’t Fight’ is a harmonious marriage of this storytelling and the catchy melodies La Havas creates. With one of the most infectious riffs on the album, the track bounds through its driving beat, to a chorus that you’ll have stuck in your head. Eventually climaxing on the synth and string rise as La Havas proclaims ‘I can’t fight away this love!’. And after this climax she only sings ‘This love’ as if she’s given in and allowed herself to be love by another.
Throughout there’s also a variety of different instrumentation involved to make each track stand out, whilst also feeling similar to the rest of the album. One of the more psychedelic landscapes used is on the track ‘Read My Mind’ as the track sways between its phased guitars and oscillating synths, to then bringing in the hushed chorus chants. It reminds of some of the eerie psych landscapes that Crumb created on their debut album last year ‘Jinx’. There’s also the pounding moments of hip-hop influence on ‘Please Don’t Make Me Cry’ with its sampled crackling drums. And then there’s even elements of folk on the closer ‘Sour Flower’ with its flowing picked guitars in the first half.
For all the passionately crafted songs on this album there are a few moments where the sound gets a bit lack lustre and isn’t as memorable as it could be. ‘Seven Times’ features a more latino guitar groove but gets stuck at points on the phrase ‘All night, all day, all night and day, I cry and pray, all night, all day’ and although the repitition is used to emphasise the point, it gets slightly boring after hearing it for nearly a minute straight as the track slowly fades out. And the track ‘Green Papaya’ feels like more of a vague musing over its loose plucked guitar and swerving melodies, never really reaching the levels of prowess as many of the other tracks do.
Lianne La Havas aptly named this album after herself, and its every bit of her within it. There’s huge amounts of soul, passion and groove that marks a new start for her. As she stated on Twitter ‘THE ALBUM I’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO MAKE IS OUT TODAY!’ and the music within reinforces that statement. When it wants to go big, it does. But it also knows when to reign it in, just to catch you off-guard at the next turn.