Laura Mvula's album is out Monday. Unfortunately I don't have any first-hand tales of seeing her live or meeting her so I thought I'd give her album a review. Aside from all the B-Town bands Laura may be Birmingham's biggest new star. So the question is, is Laura Mvula just another dinner party friendly singer-songwriter? or is she like Lianne La Havas? - a soul singer who defies convention and mediocrity?
The album begins with 'Like the morning dew' which is a good example of why she has been dubbed 'gospeldelica' it's a mellow yet expansive song, that flits between a big chorus and laid back verses. Its quite a unique sound that hints that Laura is trying to stand out as an artist apart from other soul singers.
'Make me lovely' moves onto a jazzier style complete with horns and harp sounds and a continuation of the loud-quiet dynamic that the album began with. Green Garden is an early highlight, its a more structured song, with a strong rhythm, yet it's also pretty weird, there's a Xylophone riff that loops throughout and strange 'ohhh ahhh' vocoder backing vocals, howver its also sounds very soulful, with a blues style stomp for the rhythm.
'Can't live with the world' is more what I expected to hear, a stripped down piano ballard with added backing vocals and an orchestra, it's mellow and actually quite lovely. I'm now starting to think of Bjork on her Vespertine album. In a way Bjork is a valid comparison, despite the varying styles, both have a sense of ambition and experimentation, it says a lot about Laura that I see fit to compare the two.
'Is there anybody out there' continues with the same mellow vibe. By now she's settled into her sound and it feels less experimental than the first few tracks. After the also rather lovely, mellow 'Father Father' 'Thats Alright comes back to the Bluesey stomp of earlier tracks with a constant rhythm and Brass band backing and more distorted back vocals, the album starts getting weird again.
'She' was one of the album's early singles and it brings back the xylophone which now starts and stops rather than loops. Its got the Vespertine Bjork-inan feel and it all leads up to a wall of sound. Production wise this album is fascinating, its full of original ideas and sounds, Soul music can be very dull sometimes but Laura's worked hard to make something more unique.
Throughout the album Laura proves to be a talented singer, her voice is always restrained rather than over-egging it as so many singers do these days. Musically its all very complex, there are many instruments playing and it adds up to a unique full band sound. Overall it can feel a bit overworked in places and a bit weird as her trademark sound takes some getting used to, but 'Sing to the moon' is an album of moods, at times it's beautiful at others it's eclectic and buzzing with ideas.
So there you have it, Laura Mvula has proven herself to be one of Birmingham's biggest talents and possibly its first true breakout star from the current scene.
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