After a pair of acclaimed EPs, BBC Sound of 2012 nomination, and US tour spot with Bon Iver, South London songstress Lianne La Havas has already attracted a fair number of plaudits. Her full-length debut, Is Your Love Big Enough?, is likely to consolidate her breakthrough. Being the “next big thing” may have its drawbacks, not least in terms of the expectations it brings, but on the strength of this record, La Havas has the skills to cope. In Matt Hales she also has an assured co-writer and producer.
She opens with the dreamy “Don’t Wake Me Up”. Her multi-tracked vocal, underpinned by soft vocoder effects, comes across like a soulful Imogen Heap before giving way to a more conventional delivery over a relaxed beat with sparse piano and fragile guitar. On an album where relationships rule the lyrics, the title track seems to focus this time on her connection with herself rather than another. “Is your love big enough for what’s to come?” she asks in the insistent chorus, though the passion she employs suggests it’s a rhetorical question. This is an honest and upbeat song, destined to become a crowd-pleaser.
Most of the other songs hit their mark, and there are several high points. La Havas achieves a genuine connection with Willy Mason on the subtle duet “No Room for Doubt”, and their delicate voices mesh together really well. She shows off her prodigious, yet impressively controlled, range on the heartfelt ballad “Everything, Everything”, while her voice is lush and expressive on the soft shuffle of “They Could Be Wrong”, which closes the album. La Havas combines the smooth tones of Sade with the light touch of Corinne Bailey Rae, but where she really scores is how she works the emotional power of music. Her guitar lines are another strong point, always carefully worked to fit the mood of the individual song. She is very much a “feel” player, and this adds to the intimacy of her music. Perhaps at times the material is a bit too perfectly ,and a few raw edges might not go amiss. But that’s little by way of criticism.
Essential Tracks: “Everything, Everything”, “Is Your Love Big Enough?”, and “Don’t Wake Me Up”