Lianne La Havas
Lianne La Havas (photo by Jean Paul Pietrus, Nonesuch PR)
Lianne La Havas
When it came time to write material for her second album Blood, Lianne La Havas didn’t have to look far for inspiration. She found it by simply learning who she was and where she came from. The 25-year-old Londoner, longlisted for the BBC’s Sound of 2012, had great success with her debut release, Is Your Love Big Enough? That album earned La Havas the 2012 iTunes UK Album of the Year award and Mercury Prize and Ivor Novello music award nominations.
After touring in support of her successful debut, La Havas went on holiday to Christiana, Jamaica, with her mother, who is of Jamaican descent (La Havas’s father is Greek.) A vacation became a journey of self-discovery for La Havas, who reunited with her long lost family. She also traveled to Kingston to jam with dancehall and reggae producer and star Stephen “Di Genius” McGregor. That return to a recording studio and La Havas's deep bonding with her Jamaican roots and her Greek heritage, inspired the songs on Blood.
Blood stretches La Havas’s scope as a songwriter, singer and guitarist, embracing neo-soul and jazz, while peppering the proceedings with dashes of R&B, reggae, and doo wop. Her voice is wonderfully powerful and full; it rings clearly and soars majestically over her sunshine-dappled melodies. She co-wrote all but one of the songs on the album and, in addition to McGregor, collaborated with producers and artists like Aqualung’s Matt Hales, Paul Epworth, Jamie Lidell, and Mark Batson.
Despite the disparate collaborators, Blood holds together very well and works as a singular piece, rather than a patchwork of styles. The emphasis on a soulful groove is a key component to the album, as is its blend of quiet intimacy and bolder flourishes, evident on songs like the brassy “Midnight.”
“What You Don’t Do” slides by with a big nod to Sly and the Family Stone’s “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” laying down a pop groove that that is enriched by the spirit of that classic song, not just blatantly sampling it. Elsewhere, “Never Get Enough” delivers an emotional outburst through a distorted, tribal beat.
Although driven by her own personal journey, Blood isn’t just an autographical album. There are songs that strongly parallel La Havas’s own story, especially “Green And Gold,” where a six-year-old La Havas wonders, “Where am I gonna be if I’m ever twenty-three?” The lyrically wistful “Ghost,” addresses a fractured relationship. But overall, Blood looks at one’s sense of being and the quest for self-discovery. It’s a universal journey and this sense of searching permeates each song.
Blood is a sensual, late-night journey that draws from within, but confidently and joyously emerges outward in a splendid show of emotion. By examining her own history, La Havas not only bridges the past and the present, but forges her artistic future.