“Sing to the Moon” – Laura Mvula

4 stars (out of 5)

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Product DetailsLaura Mvula is a British soul singer and this her debut album; let’s leave it at that shall we? The accompanying brouhaha and hyperbole  should be ignored and put aside with immediate effect and instead let’s concentrate on what’s actually on offer here, what we can listen to and is it in fact any good?

Like The Morning Dew” opens “Sing To The Moon” with a vocal that sounds like a hybrid of many singers, British predominantly, that sound a little bit like Amy Winehouse, maybe some Emile Sande thrown in for good measure and then someone old school and monumental like Nina Simone or Billie Holliday. Laura Mvula has an arresting voice then, albeit one you think you may have heard before. There are also choirs, luscious harps, big orchestras, military drums, trip hop beats occasionally and things can become very quiet before they go very loud; it’s what you might call ‘organic’. You might think of the The Carpenters or indeed The Beach Boys in respect to the multiple harmonies. It’s nice and it’s pretty more than anything, which may be a surprise given this seemingly crowded sonic template, and things continue in this vein for the first four songs, the most pop song on here, “Green Garden”, being the highlight.

Just when I begin to here to fear that maybe Mvula was going to suffer from Florence syndrome where every track followed the same structure, the same huge chorus, sonic crashes but without too much of an actual song to grab onto, my ears stood to rapid attention  with the arrival of the fifth song, ”Is There Anybody Out There?” Airy and menacing and haunting, it’s a fantastic song and an incredibly detailed and warm arrangement with Laura and a double bass sounding lonely but in complete command of the deserted universe she appears to be trapped in. If I had to make a comparison it would be to Bjork and I wouldn’t bandy that around willy-nilly, somewhere between the “Homogenic” and “Vespertine” albums when her classical and pop influences merged beautifully and the avant garde just began leaking in and hadn’t yet taken over.

From this point on things begin to take flight and on occasion, soar.’”Father, Father” diverts somewhat from the musical richness that prevails here being predominately piano with Mvula’s strident, defensive vocals sounding like a hymn, a prayer to an absent parent.  It sounds like a traditional song but, due mainly to the odd phrasing of her performance particularly in the repetition of the last minutes but modern too.   “That’s Alright” is self-possessed and uplifting, a non-preachy ‘fuck you’ to race and body image stereotypes and expectations and is another great song.  Mvula writes or co-writes every track here. “I Don’t Know What The Weather Will Be” and the title track “Sing to the Moon” are mid tempo and gorgeously spacious and “Flying Without You” is a show-stopping, whooping mix of girl group pop and musical theatre; think “South Pacific” meets the Sugababes but played out in a church, the on-going lyrical celebration of individuality and freedom continues to be the predominant theme of this album.

Like Lianne La Haines, Adele, Florence and, er, Ellie Goulding before her there are many accolades being thrown at Laura Mvula at the moment and we should all do our best to ignore all of this, they just cloud the issue. She isn’t like any of these artists and considering she only has less than 15 songs to her name so far we should wait and see what happens. Mvula seems open to many things and is almost certainly in love with making music and it can take some time before a performer finally becomes the artist that truly fits them. Until then this is an invigorating, beautiful piece of work and I recommend you listen to it.