Just picked this up from iTunes on a recommendation from my wife who seems to know my music tastes better than I do! This is a pop album. It is a damn good pop album like nothing I’ve heard before, but it is pop. Laura Mvula is British with an African tinge to it. The title track brings this out. Reading a bit about her, she has Gospel roots and has worked extensively with community vocal groups. This is not a religious album in any traditional sense, but it is oddly gospel. Can’t quite put my finger on why.
The albums opens with Like the Morning Dew, an anthem huge vocal chords. Then to Mvula’s solo voice sounding bit like another British singer, Adele. The comparison is a compliment to both. This is followed quickly by Make Me Lovely, a song that could easily be found as the main theme of a great broadway musical that is a bit off the mainstream.
Green Garden changes things up dramatically. Now we find ourselves in the midst of an electronic dance tune that I’m not sure you would dance to. But, your feet will certainly move while you’re listening. Then bang - Can’t Live With the World hits you with a velvet glove that feels like a great Motown girl-ballad, or even something that Ella would sing. Is There Anybody Out There? follows in a similar, beautiful vein. Rich arranging and performing that is just stunning.
Now we come to Father, Father and the album starts to reveal its secrets. I took several listens before I realized this is a hymn. It’s structured like a hymn, feels like a hymn, and could be interpreted as a hymn. If the Wesley brothers were alive and hip, this Father, Father is the first hymn they would write. How can such a simple musical form produce such a beautiful song?
That’s Alright takes us back to the movie musical feel with a strong statement about physical beauty and traditional views of women. The package for the message is another big anthem in the same mold as those that open the album. This is followed by She, a solid 3 minute piece that should be flooding the radio waves as I type.
I Don’t Know What the Weather Will Bring is as beautiful and simple as any song I have ever heard. It is stunning both lyrically and musically, opening quietly with solo harp morphing into into Mvula’s voice. Then back to harp with an incredibly touching lyric.
I don’t know what the weather will be,
whether we’ll see a tomorrow,
but if today is all I have to live
I give it to you. Do what you want to.
and after some nice counterpoint, the song fades away as simply and quietly as it emerged. Songs are rarely this good.
Sing to the Moon is regal with huge chords, sounding like the theme to on of those huge nature documentaries. However, it doesn’t start that way. Quiet lyric leading to a snare driven chorus. Once again we find ourselves listening to a hymn. Listen carefully and you’ll hear it.
This is an amazing album that deserves attention when all the awards shows start to happen. I don’t know if it will or not. It did make Pitchfork’s list of albums flying under the radar so far this year, so there’s hope. Don’t wait for this folks - go buy it now.