Aug 7, 2015

Review: Blood - @LianneLaHavas; A Niles P. Joint

For a while, Lianne La Havas existed only in theory to me. I had heard her name pop up around the time of her debut album’s release in 2012 and I knew she performed at the AfroPunk Fest day I didn’t go to last year. Other than that she was an artist my friends loved but not someone I was familiar with myself. After hearing some music off of her recently released sophomore LP Blood I switched from casual observer to fan. Even more telling, I committed to writing this review despite not having it fit the aural profile of the albums I usually write about.

You may lump Lianne La Havas into the category of wispy British singer/songwriter with guitars, a very specific niche that gave us Corrine Bailey Rae, but also flooded the market with a swarm of soundalikes with lukewarm talent. In this case you’d be wrong, because La Havas radiates her own unique talent. I’ve previously spoken about how her first single (and first song on this album) Unstoppable cured a springtime allergy-induced headache. If that was the high point of this album it would be good enough but La Havas goes above and beyond in the ensuing nine tracks. Green and Gold has a stovetop-simmering timbre that especially takes form in the song’s hi-hats. Her vocals are husky and complemented by the accompanying trumpet. What You Don’t Do is the second single and has a crescendo that builds to a love-affirming chorus. The entire structure sounds grand and boisterous which works for what’s the most upbeat song on the album. This is sharply contrasted by Tokyo which uses a baseline to create track that would be at home on your local smooth jazz station. Wonderful proves to be the audio version of pillow talk, featuring airy vocals from La Havas that go well over a delicate instrumental that is sparse yet well layered.

I heard Midnight first in an online exclusive video for Nylon Magazine that featured the UK-based crooner playing the track in a bathroom (for acoustics) with only her guitar. I was pleasantly surprised when the album version was more fleshed out with a brass section and piano among other instruments. It effectively made an intriguing song, awe inspiring and helped differentiate it from the more reticent songs on the album, all while becoming my favorite cut on Blood. A folksy guitar riff  with stylistically similar vocals initially greets you on Grow. It gives way to a more outgoing chorus that demonstrates the powers of La Havas’ vocal cords. This one may remind you of Girl You’ll Be A Woman Soon which was on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack years ago. Her guitar aptitude goes on display on Ghost which is a bare-bones track that gives off a graceful aura. It sounds like something that would be played at open mic night at a coffee house and I mean that in a complimentary way. At this point, the album needed a quick change of pace type of song and Never Get Enough delivers. It opens up with the familiar folk styling in the guitar and doubled vocals. However the chorus switches to previously-unheard electric guitars and distorted vocals that pack a punch. While the songstress is free to take her career in any direction she pleases, I love her commitment to more of a rock sound on this one and hope she explores this more on her future albums. Good Goodbye comes in as a sentimental closer and features more guitar dexterity paired with a piano and string section along with weepy vocals. This song seems like it would be played during the tear jerking finale of an independent romantic dramedy.
Lianne La Havas at Afropunk (photo by: Christina Ventura Sidewalk Hustle)

Lianne La Havas earned all of my respect on Blood.  This album showcased a skill set that most people can barely acquire in a career that spans multiple decades.  La Havas is on her second album. The variation in the sounds she employs manages to be eclectic yet still cohesive. There’s nothing cliché about this album, so putting her into any kind of box stylistically has been rendered impossible. Even with such an accomplishment, there is a sense that she is just scratching the surface. For now, Lianne La Havas has managed to create an album that features a song for every conceivable mood. The only knock is a couple of these ideas repeat, and on a ten track album it’s noticeable, although the repetitions are different in their execution. Even with that, Blood is an excellent album and fits in perfectly on any summer day and beyond. Below you can enjoy Blood by Lianne La Havas via spotify.

Rating: 4.45 out of 5.


Multimedia Journalist, Founder and Chief Editor of WTM Host of A-Side B-Side Podcast and more. I like to talk about stuff and write it down. Sometimes to a microphone. Either way, I need you to feel this.

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