Album Review: Lianne La Havas – Lianne La Havas

After taking a longer than planned break Lianne La Havas returns with a self titled record that quietly reasserts her musical identity. On the cover she may be hiding behind her hair but the smile on her face suggests a relaxed and open artist who has made it through some difficult times and is now comfortable with who she is.

In the liner notes Lianne describes this as ‘the album I’ve always wanted to make’ while also thanking fans for their patience and support after she ‘lost hope’. Opening song Bittersweet takes us into her struggle and conflicting emotional landscape. It’s a beautiful, soulful sound that starts softly before transforming into an a stunning release of emotion when she sings Bittersweet summer rain/ I’m born again. Her ‘broken pieces’ meld together in one of the best songs of the year.

She explores more of a groove based, R n B side to her sound in Read My Mind, and pushing herself beyond the more understated sound of her past. It’s a simple optimistic love song lyrically, but the layers of music and vocals add something a little different.

After that ambitious opening duo of songs Green Papya takes us back to a simpler acoustic sound. Her voice is never less than sublime and you feel she has a renewed confidence in her musical style while also allowing for further experimentation.

Can’t Fight uses layered vocals with gorgeous results. One of the best songs on the album is ‘Paper Thin’, a song of compassion and understanding which develops on a slow groove that allows her to use her voice to an expressive and emotional effect.

Her indie rock influences are given a nod with her cover of Radiohead’s ‘Weird Fishes’. The line ‘hit the bottom and escape’ seems relevant to her experiences in writing this record and sometimes you just need a cover song to free you up and let you find a new direction. Radiohead certainly know how to bend music into new and unexpected ways, that’s for sure so you can see how they might be inspiring for artists seeking answers to how to develop their sound over the course of a career.

The second half of the record is more downbeat, somber in tone as her relationship begins to be more uncertain. Love comes at a cost, she sings on Please Don’t Make Me Cry. A plea for kindness and understanding is clear in the words ‘I’ll show you my prettiest scars / They make us whatever we are’. Musically it’s another slow burn stunner, just gorgeous in its vulnerability.

By ‘Seven Times’ she’s set herself free, and even if she spends all day crying and praying there is an optimistic heart in the music that suggests she will find that strength somewhere. Courage is a plea for that bravery to move on and not give in to loneliness. The introspective, almost whispered vocals reflect her inner turmoil. By the final song Sour Flower she’s found the self-acceptance she was seeking both emotionally and musically.

On this album you will find Lianne La Havas dancing on her own, slowly building confidence in her self, still searching but never lost. A sublime and welcome return.

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