Is Her Love Big Enough

Lianne La Havas, a singer from England, has been releasing music for less than a year.  But she seems to be working her way quickly up the ladder on the strength of a handful of EPs and singles, both of which have emphasized two things — her voice and her guitar. These instruments are clear and strong, while also capable of delicate quivers and a lot of ache, and she uses them to investigate the rough side of relationships and love. Her debut full-length, Is Your Love Big Enough?, continues in the vein of her early work.

This makes sense, because about half of the songs on Is Your Love Big Enough? have already been released previously in some form.  She picks many of the strongest songs from her studio EPs for inclusion on her full-length: the easy, lilting “Age,” the edgy, percussive “Forget,” and slow, tragic tunes like “Lost & Found” and the duet “No Room For Doubt.”  Some of these songs sound like they’ve gained a few extra studio accents – often light percussion — but they are largely true to their original form.

 

Most of the new material fits in seamlessly with the old.  On the opening track, “Don’t Wake Me Up,” La Havas multiplies her own vocal and sings unaccompanied for almost a minute before being joined by a piano, and eventually, bass, a couple guitars, and drums.  She sings, “I know/ Why I lost control/ Of my heart and soul” and you know you’re right back in La Havas’s comfort zone, analyzing the post-relationship wreckage, or predicting its imminent arrival.  The album’s last song, “They Could Be Wrong,” possibly leans towards a positive future.  But when La Havas sings “They say our love won’t last forever, they could be wrong,” she doesn’t sound defiant of her detractors or excited about this prospect of eternal love; it’s as if the pain and trouble she sings about on most of her songs is inevitable.

 

On a few songs, we see a slightly different side of La Havas.  “Elusive,” a cover of her countryman Scott Matthews, improves on the original.  Matthews moved through his version quickly, sounding weary and cracked, playing a linear riff with no percussion accompanying him.  In contrast, La Havas starts hers with a wash of breathy wordless vocals.   She adds drums that play slow and sharp but sometimes don’t show up at all.  The bass comes and goes in light bursts; La Havas sings cooly over the guitar figure, which runs in circles. It’s a slippery tune.

 

The album’s title track also differs from the norm.  It mentions a dance floor, and its hook has a thick, multi-tracked vocal, a handclap beat, and enough momentum to possibly enable dancing, which is a rarity for La Havas’s music.  She does tragic exploration well, but it’s good for her to mix it up now and then.

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