She's naturally beautiful, dresses in enviably quirky outfits and seems to balance an oh-so-grown up voice with a likeable spoken demeanour. What's not to like about Lianne La Havas? It was clear from her live EP that the 21 year old Londoner possesses something special, but what really makes her any different from the hoards of Adele/Paloma Faith/Rumer sophisti-pop that's already out there?
The answer is simple. What Lianne does with her voice is undoubtedly beautiful and impressive, but once the initial awe is over, you realise that there is an affable youth and naivety in her songwriting. Gone is the stereotype that being blessed with a traditionally good voice means you're stuck in coffee table territory:Is Your Love Big Enough is a fun, unintimidating tale of a young girl negotiating her way through life, love and music, making mistakes along the way but ultimately coming out on top. All simple and relatable emotions, but put together in this catalogue, she comes across almost as a vocal actress, swapping between flippancy and deeper sentiments with ease, perhaps a trick she learnt whilst touring as a backing vocalist for the aforementioned Paloma Faith.
No Room For Doubt is a highlight. Her wide eyed vocal contrasts wonderfully with Willy Masons deadpan, his whiskey soaked voice next to hers evoking the image of a relationship between a young girl and an older man. It's a theme that is further explored on Age, a more whimsical take on age-gap romance that sees La Havas firmly in the driving seat as she boldly declares 'So is it such a problem that he's old/As long as he does whatever he's told.'
It's a relatable juxtaposition. Her ‘independent woman’ attitude crops up again on Forget, the albums standout single and a perfect pop revenge song. Its sees her break loose from her voice, belting the chorus and a great music metaphor brushoff (‘so please don’t try to serenade me/ I am a one man band.') Perhaps she's isn't as inexperienced in spirit as her age suggests. This maturity sets her up nicely for 'Gone', where she allows her soul roots to truly burst forth over a sparse piano, the sort of thing you'd imagine hearing in a smoky jazz club whilst record execs write excitedly in their chequebooks.
For those who like this more upbeat side, the album's title track is likely to become a favourite. Receiving admirable radio play at the moment due to it's catchy calypso beat, it details her rise to fame without becoming gushy or cloying. When she talks of how she 'found herself in a second hand guitar', you are tempted to believe her. Au Cinema is similarly romantic, Parisian not only in its title but it's finger picked elegance.
Miss La Havas still has a lot to learn (by the time we get to Everything Everything, she is perhaps relying a little too firmly on her voice over song structure), but it’s a very endearing and accomplished debut with far more hits than misses. By establishing that is is possible to create such perky, pretty songs from relatively few instruments and a simple sound, it bodes well for her future when she can expand, bringing in more life experiences to flesh out her lyricism. Until then, a sleek, classy pop album is certainly nothing to sniff at. A perfect soundtrack to summer.
The full album is available for free streaming at The Guardian - http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/musicblog/2012/jul/06/lianne-la-havas-is-your-love-stream