Lianne La Havas Lost

The phrase “lost and found” implies being in limbo; something is not in its right place, but it is not necessarily in the wrong place either — there is the possibility of return, of restoring order.  For contemporary musicians, however, it seems mainly to signify loneliness and desperation.  In 2003, the Swedish band the Radio Dept. ended their album Lesser Matters with a song named “Lost and Found.” The band mentioned being buried, and there seemed to be little hope — “Where you are going I cannot follow.”  In 2006, the French group Phoenix included a “Lost And Found” of their own on the album It’s Never Been Like That.  Again, the situation seemed tragic, a lifeless relationship stuck in a trap brought about by not recognizing reality.  Singer Thomas Mars sang, “It’s hard enough to get along. . . we never ever get along. . . let go . . . you better run as fast as you can.”

Lianne La Havas, a young English singer, follows in this thematic tradition.  For her, lost and found signifies the acknowledgment of her own troubled state, but redemption appears a distant prospect at best.  She is having a very difficult time, largely caused by her counterparts in the opposite sex.  The lyrics start heavy and pointed — “We all make mistakes, we do/ I learned from you” – and only become heavier and pointier:  “You broke me/ and taught me/ to truly hate myself,” and “he. . . twisted my arms/ I couldn’t learn to fight.”  The song “Age” has a cheery melody, but it begins with the line, “Why do I love him/ he don’t love me back.” La Havas delivers these harsh tales clearly in a voice that can be breathy and high or thicker and multiplied by the force of her own backing vocals.  At times she sounds a bit like her compatriot Adele — not just because she is motivated by bad experiences with men and occasionally wails away alone at a piano, but also due to her ability to hit the low, sultry register that is so fashionable among a certain group of female English singers.  However, on the title track, La Havas springs from Adele-like to fragile quivering; delicately curling where Adele is more of a blunt instrument.

La Havas’s second EP, Forget, inhabits similar territory, though it is less fully-formed than its predecessor, including only two complete new studio tracks – “Forget” and “Same As Me” — a demo, a live recording, and an alternate take.  The sound remains crystal clear, as does the theme; La Havas’s first words are “Waste all your time writing love songs, but you don’t love me.”  “Gone,” the demo, feels a bit too motivated by Adele’s recent success.  La Havas may end up found eventually, but for now, she needs to explore the sources of her sorrow.

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