In the three years since the release of 2012’s Mercury Prize nominated Is Your Love Big Enough?, soul chanteuse Lianne La Havas has hosted Prince in her living room, played countless festivals, and has spent time in her mother’s homeland, Jamaica, working on Blood. The title of the record is a subtle nod to the blood ties that bind people together, and is apt, considering where La Havas recorded the majority of her sophomore album.
The record opens with the magnificent Unstoppable, which is arguably about the irresistible allure of a former lover; “I’ll wait a little longer/We’re weak and getting stronger/I know it’s taking the time to heal/
We’ll be unstoppable.” Green And Gold alludes to the flag of Jamaica, and sees La Havas coming over all sultry, her low register played out against a lounge-style musical soundscape. This then paves way to the rather more uptempo, carnival-like What You Don’t Do, with a brass section adding gravitas to the track, which sees La Havas reveling in a relationship which doesn’t require any grand gestures as proof of affection; “You don’t need to show it/It’s what you don’t do/what you don’t say/”. These opening three tracks showcase La Havas’ vocal versatility, and are a far cry from the more understated tracks from Is Your Love….
The rest of the record continues to showcase La Havas’ versatility; Tokyo has a late-night jazz bar groove running through it, Wonderful sees La Havas singing a softly-sung ode to a lover, full of finger clicks and delicate piano playing. The only misstep can be found on Never Get Enough, which sees La Havas dabble in electronics and noise, her vocals distorted underneath a mechanic-sounding beat. This is one direction La Havas might be best avoiding in the future. Blood culminates with the fabulous Good Goodbye, a track which glides along the sound of strings and a simple guitar line, the listener swept up in the delicateness of La Havas’ voice. Expect this track to be soundtracking many a US Drama in years to come.
Rather than re-invent herself, Lianne La Havas has returned with an album which is much more sonically dense than her first record, something that can be attributed to having a greater number of musicians to work with. Her voice is full of soul and character, and it is clear that she is enjoying singing these songs. This isn’t ‘coffee-shop’ music, but rather, music to lose yourself in for an hour. La Havas is very good aural company.