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Album Reviews

Album Review: Lianne La Havas (Warner)

Sam Smith

After seriously impressing with her 2015 album Blood, an album that earned her a Grammy nomination, UK soul sensation Lianne La Havas is back after a five-year absence with a self-titled album that might just be her best yet.

On this new project, Lianne La Havas builds strongly on the smooth soul offerings that turned many heads on Blood and positions what is essentially a classic style of music within a more contemporary setting. One could say the style on display here is neo-soul, but that would be a disservice to Havas who tries to set herself apart from the R&B scene, a scene which tends to gravitate more towards hip-hop.

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Inspired by a relationship breakup, this record saw Havas take inspiration from a wide range of sources, with Joni Mitchell, Al Green, and Destiny’s Child showcasing a wide musical pallet for her to draw upon and craft what are some quite beautiful songs.

Bittersweet is a quite brilliant album-opener with Havas putting in a stunning vocal that immediately makes you take notice. These are the sorts of moments that really get you invested in new albums, of which without it can almost at times become a chore just to get through one whole listen.

Havas affords the opportunity to play around with rhythm and melody on songs such as Read My Mind, Can’t Fight, and Paper Thin, all of which tap into traditional blues, jazz and soul sounds, and signify that she has progressed as a songwriter over the last five years. There is really a lot more to Havas than just the epic soul balladry as displayed on Blood and the evidence is there in these three tracks.

The confidence she displayed on this record was summed up perfectly on a quite daring cover of Radiohead’s Weird Fishes. It is no mean feat taking on Thom Yorke vocally, and her version of this In Rainbows song is one of the best Radiohead covers I have ever heard, as she well and truly made this gorgeous song her own with a commanding performance.

Amidst the powerful vocal highs, as exhibited on songs such as Weird Fishes and Please Don’t Make Me Cry, there were also more tender moments with elements of introspection. This is exemplified best on the beautiful semi-acoustic number Courage, with Havas channelling the greats of classic jazz and soul. This delicate song also served as a reminder that Havas is an accomplished guitarist, a skill of hers that often gets overlooked.

In an at-times stale soul and R&B scene where many artists fall into the trap of following contemporary trends in order to get more streams, Lianne La Havas is a breath of fresh air. This self-titled comeback proves soul and R&B singers can retreat to the past for influence and in the process release music with more depth and substance where song-writing is just as important as flashy production and big-name features.

Lianne La Havas played an excellent hand with this record and at this point, it would be hard to bet against this album being one of the best R&B/soul projects to be released in 2020.

Buy Lianne La Havas here

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Released: 17 Jul 2020

Written By: Sam Smith When he is not writing for Radio 13 Sam works in media and journalism at 95bFM radio and the University of Auckland. He also has is own personal music blog Nowhere Bros.