From Paloma Faith backing singer to Prince’s protégé, Lianne La Havas sheds herself of the stale ‘English singer-songwriter’ tag with second record ‘Blood’ and emerges as something much bigger in this extreme case of musical metamorphosis – a star.
Lead single ‘Unstoppable’ forefronts the album. A lifting veil of shimmering neo-soul that floats delicately in front of real force, it’s like a sun lounger on rapids. It was, in fact, a holiday to Jamaica which provided the muse for this second record. ‘Blood’ digs up the roots of La Havas’ Greek/Jamaican heritage and regurgitates 25 years worth of secondhand culture, a nostalgic longing for something she’s never really experienced, and then shares that sentimentality with everyone.
Songs like ‘Green & Gold’ and ‘Tokyo’ borrow from an older soul, and throughout the ensemble the vocals are unashamedly flawless. From breezy faux-falsetto to the full-stretch inflation for bigger tracks like ‘What You Don’t Do’ and ‘Midnight’, La Havas’ range is championed. Yet the most striking thing about ‘Blood’ is the versatility of La Havas’ ambidextrous pop. The entire tracklisting is a clustered amalgamation of influence. It swings from the light chimes of the record’s opening to the heavy brass of ‘Midnight’, where La Havas beckons to “get lost in another time”. And then does just that.
Occupying a sonic space between old-school jazz and the newest of inspirations, La Havas is able to cherry pick the sweetest sounds from her musical DNA. ‘Grow’ is a pure reggae track, while ‘Never Get Enough’ sounds like Laura Mvula doing The Black Keys. The real gem, however, lies in ‘Ghost’. A bare-boned, skeletal track that sees La Havas tail velvet guitar in elliptical call-and-response. There’s two sides to ‘Blood’, that much is certain, and it’s the juxtaposition of these cradling tracks with the gut punchers that really leaves you breathless for more.