ALBUM REVIEW: Lianne La Havas - Blood

Sunday, August 2, 2015

British singer-songwriter and producer extraordinaire Lianne La Havas has returned with a new album entitled Blood after the successful release of Is Your Love Big Enough? in 2012. Though some might consider her a ‘neo-soul’ artist, she is more than that. It’s impossible to fit her into any genre as her sounds derive from a range of different styles and influences from the alternative, folk and soul categories. Blood sees her experiment with distinct sounds, take risks, and get personal. 

The album's opener is breezy and dreamlike, setting the tone for the rest of the album. Her vocals are smooth and wind around the thumping beat dominating in the background. Assisting in maintaining the daydream state of the track is harps. The whimsical vibes of the track are given some bounce from the sounds of rhythmic guitars. What makes the opener exquisite is how she marries the funk groove and dreamlike ambience perfectly without one dominating the other.

Green & Gold:
‘Green & Gold’ is one of the most intriguing tracks from the album. She gained inspiration for the track after a trip she took to Jamaica to reconnect with her ancestral roots. The colours in the title also draw from the colours of the Jamaican flag. She also plays homage to her Greek ancestry, referencing to ‘ancient stones’.

What You Don't Do:
One of the singles to come from the album, ‘What You Don’t Do’ is one of the more radio-friendly tracks from the release. The love song features breezy vocals and elevating backing vocals.

This mid-tempo ballad is an emotional track that is about being alone. I'm not sure if the song is about being in Tokyo, or if Tokyo is a metaphor. Tokyo is known for it's craziness, suffocating skyscrapers, high population. When I was in Tokyo last year, it was the language different that made me feel alone and lost in translation. The opening is extremely powerful, "All i've ever known is / How to be alone / It comes naturally."

This stripped back number is spacious and minimal and is let by the sounds of finger clicking. Co-written with Matt Hales of Aqualung and Disclosure's Howard Laurence, it's one of my favourite lyrical moments from the album. Written in past tense, I get the sense she is reflecting on a past relationship that went wrong, or a relationship that is in a downward spiral. Lyrics that stand out on 'Wonderful' include "Near down / I'm searching for the sunrise / Remember when you put the stars into my eyes" and "You can trip, flick a switch negative / Break the circuit between us but electricity lingers." 'Wonderful' is a truly bewitching, led by her seductive vocals and passionate lyrics. 

'Midnight' sees Lianne La Havas explore her vocal range and hit notes that I didn't think she could hit. She shows off her vocal prowess, not leaving anything behind. The upbeat track also features the use of brass instruments, catering pleasantly to her soaring vocals. 

The reggae influenced track - most likely inspired by time she spent in Jamaica, switches between being delicate to an uptempo chorus effortlessly.

'Ghost' is a highlight from the album and exhibits a similar vibe to 'Wonderful'. Instead, 'Ghost' is led by her mellow vocals and the guitar. Though it premiered almost a year ago, it’s timeless and fits in perfectly with the rest of the tracks on the album. I cannot think of anything more delightful then when she strips back her music and allows the lyrics to remain the most prominent element of the song. It’s as if you can hear her thinking as she sings her way through her emotional lyrics. 

Never Get Enough:
This track in a way is similar to ‘Grow’ - the opening is delicate and mellow driven by the guitar and minimal percussion. The percussion, though is only light, sounds as if it was also influenced by her trip to the Caribbean. The chorus surprises you and sees her embrace her dark gritty side. The dynamic chorus is driven by electronic beats and guitar riffs. She also steps away from her normally smooth vocals and twists them, making them distorted and raspy. 

Good Goodbye:
After the intensity of the previous track, ‘Good Goodbye’ ends on a subdued note. The ending of the album seems fitting considering the emotional journey she has taken listeners on. The track also shows off her maturation musically and as an artist.

Written by Amy Smolcic

Lianne La Havas - Blood
Released: July 31st 
Rating: 9/10