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Tue Sep 01 07:59:49 SAST 2015


Helen Brown, ©The Daily Telegraph | 22 February, 2013 00:53

The talented half-Greek, half-Jamaican Londoner's mix of old-fashioned melody, youthful vulnerability and sweet, smoky vocals draws instant comparisons with Corinne Bailey Rae ofLike a Star fame. But 23-year-old Lianne La Havas's eclectic debut album is rather more sonically adventurous and genre-hopping than Bailey Rae's early pop-soul output.

It opens with a bold blast of layered a cappella vocal harmonies before the song - Don't Wake Up - is anchored in some dramatic bass from the piano, then takes a drum-pumped turn into raw, trip-hop and R&B territory. The hook of the chorus lies in La Havas's habit of splitting a syllable and sending it ricocheting powerfully between two notes. It's a flourish that she uses throughout the album, and her distinctive soulfulness and control sets her above the TV talent show wannabes who pack in too many notes and end up losing their personality to the warble-by-numbers formula.

That said, the technique does make her sound a little like Tarzan swinging through the trees on the chorus of Is Your Love Big Enough?

Credit must also go to Matt Hales (better known as Aqualung), whose production adds a wealth of interest and texture to La Havas's simple, catchy songs, which might have become samey otherwise.

He adds quirky clicks and hand claps at times, and strips back to piano and vocals on straightforward ballads like Lost and Found and Gone.

There's an enjoyably superficial, slightly Style Council-esque sophistication to the song Au Cinema, a scuffed-rock strum on Forget (whose seductive, snake charmer's chorus could have blown in from an indie Sahara) and a moody duet co-written with US singer Willy Mason on No Room for Doubt whose almost belligerent, average-guy tone earths her more airy voice.

Luckily, the record goes easy on this sort of thing because what makes La Havas so easy and breezy can also make her sound rather glancing and fly-away.


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