Lianne La Havas – Blood
Genre: Soul / Pop
Label: Warner Bros. Records
Lianne La Haves is a s(h)inger-s(h)ongwriter from London, who has managed to turn her soft and powerful range – along with her fingerpicked guitar – into a signature sound in the overlapping world of soul and pop. She made her first big impression on the world (me being one of them) with her single Forget, which was a refreshing pop track thanks to its witty and stinging lyrics, playful timing and raw instrumentation. It was the most infectious, gimmick-free single I’d heard on the radio in years. Literally.
So now we have her second album “Blood”; a bolder title for a bolder album. Lianne La Havas has grown into a comfortable stage and although she was already mature on “Is Your Love Big Enough?”, she seems even wiser and sharper now. While the debut focused heavily on an acoustic style, “Blood” has more variety and the backing of a band, which becomes a noticeably big influence on her – mixing in more obvious influences of soul, jazz and a little bit of rock.
First track and single Unstoppable might not be the most obvious example of this change, but it’s a hard-hitting track that definitely signals a change in La Havas. Her vocals (especially on the chorus) are louder and more powerful than before, just being extremely sensual. The guitar skips along the trip-hop drums like a harp, with string instruments glittering the track; the whole thing just oozes class and great songwriting.
What You Don’t Do, another single, brings more celebratory feelings, this time La Havas explaining that the proof of her lover’s feelings are obvious through the things they don’t do, through not playing games and… well, the things they don’t do. These lyrics fit perfectly on the jaunty instrumentation, it’s just a great feel good number. The following Tokyo is different that it does have a sense of yearning, but only because of distance (the title sort of gives that away). Again, the harmonious instrumentation and her controlled yet emotional bursts are intoxicating.
Personal favourite, Grow, probably shows off Lianne La Havas’s knack for songwriting the best. Opening solely with vocals and guitars, she eventually leads to the point of “Please don’t turn us down / Don’t turn us down” (“turn” repeated monotonously at the end under some effect) and then the band bursts into – probably – the most powerful chorus on the album. La Havas just projects her voice in such a way it’s overpowering in the best way possible, and works well with the stern drums.
That said, the only slightly grinding thing to happen on “Blood” appears in Never Get Enough. The track builds itself towards the chorus, bringing up a sense of tension or anticipation to that point where the band jumps in with a sturdy beat, with distorted guitars and vocals. The problem is that it doesn’t really pull off the effect it seems to be going for: the drums sound like a drum machine, the guitars like hums and the distortion on La Havas’s vocals takes away more than it adds. The thing is that the distortion is too mechanical and where it should come through pure volume, it comes through effects/mixing instead, it doesn’t feel natural at all. But that’s the only complaint here.
Overall, Lianne La Havas has managed to improve on her strong points and utilizes this to create a strong, and at times thought-provoking, album. “Blood” is a step in the right direction and the addition of the band works for her style. Just listen to it, you won’t regret it.