Album Watch: Big Love For Lianne La Havas' Arrival

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Whenever we talk about the disintegration of honest to goodness Soul music as we know it, there is always an artist that comes along to put that outcry to bed. Lianne La Havas is one such artist and fits the criteria neatly. She's a woman out of time as she touts an air of the 1970's singer/songwriter era, as well as evokes a Southern charm and wit about her music (even though she hails from London, England, naturally). Yet, selling La Havas as strictly a Soul artist is a bit of a under sight. 

With storytelling panache this side of Janis Ian and a quiet fire lit under her a la Roberta Flack, La Havas wanders on the outskirts of Soul, dipping her toes in various waters to make for her unique approach. Her forays have been touched upon on two previously released EP's, Forget and Lost & Found. Even her acumen to command a stage was exposed on the Live In LA EP to further prove that there are two sides to La Havas' temperament. Their presence is in the folds of  Is Your Love Big Enough? her official debut, which boasts La Havas' stirring smoky vocal abilities, as well as her talent to weave a tales of love lost, and love found, and every little heartbreak and mend in-between.


Is Your Love Big Enough? is a debut album through and through, as it's confessional and raw in it's out-put, but it's still a bit guarded. Luckily La Havas hasn't been 'tainted' by the mainstream music machine (yet) and your ears are welcome to the stirring change of pace she provokes. With Matt Hales (better known as "Aqualung") at the helm of production and as co-writer alongside La Havas, a different sort of Folk tinged album invades as the experimentation gives keeps the album from meandering. Gusty is the move of first single, "Forget" and it zips back and forth in frantic tempo changes to where La Havas literally blares out and then neatly tucks herself back in.



Not always quiet, the title track is a foot stompin' number that sways lovingly around, sizzling along the way, and it's by far my favorite moment on here. Still La Havas is mostly at home when she's spinning a ballad, and brutally poetic she is on tracks like the gorgeous "Lost & Found" and quiet storm opener "Don't Wake Me Up". "Lost & Found" was the initial track that latched me into La Havas from the beginning and ever since I have admired her ability to be intense yet fragile. Akin to Phyllis Hyman, there is a tear in her voice, and you feel each one of them drop in this song, as you will in other compositions on IYLBE, but out of them all, "Lost & Found" is the crowning achievement of this exposure of self.



It's evident that La Havas knows how to unfold a story, and finding solace within a textured songwriter like her makes albums like IYLBE a richer experience...and boy does she spin some allegory. The sing-song tropica of "Age" recounts La Havas' heartbreak over a younger man and her then seeking refuge with a much older one, as he will provide the maturity and stability she so needs. Another favorite, "Au Cinema" in all of it's delicate Parisian air lightly touches on eroticism of the voyeuristic sense----but ladylike La Havas is throughout her attest. The (still) stunning duet with American folk musician, Willy Mason, "No Room For Doubt" is a weary lovers tale that hinges on the contrast of the two's vocal abilities. Mason's drawl mixes with La Havas' dust peppered tone, and a contrast of opinions crops up in this song, and spellbinding it is to where goose pimples on flesh will be raised.



Uncomplicated this album all is, even with the intricate word plays sewn in. Effortless simplicity the music is, but with the little bursts of unexpected twists and turns that appear, it makes for some quietly brilliant moment on here. So brilliant that it's enough to keep you listening again and again and uncover the layers of the human self. As with most debuts some fine-tuning is needed as the album tapers off into a state of slow burn fatigue where it gets a little too quiet and dull. For other artists, a patch of balladry is fatal to bring down a whole album, but when La Havas takes things slow with "Tease Me" and "Gone", her attention to lyrical detail is much sharper and battles Adele for who is the most railroaded in the game of love.

At present, La Havas has drawn comparisons as a perkier cousin to Corinne Bailey Rae, and far off that comparison isn't. Yet La Havas experiments and exposes in a way that Rae never did on her 2006 self-titled debut, and her edges aren't as buffed and polished. La Havas, while classy, doesn't play cute all the time. These are probably some of the many reasons why Erykah Badu and Bon Iver have scooped her up as fellow touring acts and why Prince has waxed some pretty poetic about her in recent months. Looks to be that La Havas has graduated to the status of being 'your favorite artist's favorite artist', but labels aren't important here and La Havas knows this. She just keeps on working her charms and has us wrapped around her finger with her bewitching aural brew---and yes, your love will be big enough to handle it.

Release Date: July 9, 2012 (UK) / August 7, 2012 (US)
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4 comments:

  1. I love this CD. I listened to it all day at work today.

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    1. It is great to put this album on and not have to worry about skipping tracks! I love albums like that :)

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  2. Thanks Jennifer for the great review. Like you I have been waiting a long time for the album to drop and I love it too. I couldn't have said it better than your review which highlights Lianne's musical diversity, her lyrical skills and that incredible and nuanced voice. I hope (and think) she will do well here - when it drops in August, it is a wonderful debut and deserves all the attention it is getting.

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    1. You're welcome :)

      I hope she does well here in the States too! We need more artists like her around. Her lyrical flair is just phenomenal. I'd really like to see her live, I've heard very good things about her live sets.

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