Laura Mvula – Sing to the Moon

Laura Mvula 'Sing to the Moon'

Release Date: 4 March 2013
Label: RCA

Tracklisting:

  1. Like Morning Dew
  2. Make Me Lovely
  3. Green Garden
  4. Can’t Live With the World
  5. Is There Anybody Out There?
  6. Father, Father
  7. That’s Alright
  8. She
  9. I Don’t Know What the Weather Will Be
  10. Sing to the Moon
  11. Flying Without You
  12. Diamonds
  13. Jump Right Out
  14. Something Out of the Blue

Yet again Britain has shown that when it comes to offering diversity of sound, it’s right on the cutting edge. Laura Mvula comes to me as a question. Indeed, Amy asked me if I wanted to check this artist out and I said, why not. Am I ever glad that she continues to look out for my musical interests.

Ms. Mvula is more than just an enchanting voice. She’s, in fact, what I’d consider the female equivalent of Lewis Taylor: raw soul and innovative musical composition. She takes the sweeping elegance of Brian Wilson and buries her thick and gritty voice in its grandeur. Her sound is equal parts raw and profound, gritty yet incredibly delicate.

The album opens up in an explosion of color. Like The Morning Dew is a completely unexpected opening number, big and loud, making a grand statement about the new lushness of love. It’s a gorgeous way to say hello. Then she continues to experiment with sound and harmony to create the following tracks on the album. Make Me Lovely is just that, lovely and expansive. And then the entire album just becomes an onslaught of sounds and sensations until its closing notes.

Before we concentrate too much on the music that makes up Mvula’s unique sound, let’s just inspect her voice. It’s full of the type of jazz that saw Nina Simone become such an iconic figure of the genre. It’s full of rock candy: gritty, hard, yet painfully sweet. There’s nothing more appealing than stark dichotomy of sound for a vocalist, a voice that can go from guttural growl to sugary sweetness. It’s jarring, but in such a delicious way.

She uses that powerful vocal to create the intricate layering she uses to give each song its depth and power. It’s the type of lush vocal arrangement that made me fall in love with fellow Brit Lewis Taylor — R&B and Soul that’s more cerebral, more want to make the listeners involve themselves in discovering its complexities.

That vocal experimentation serves as the basis for the incredible orchestration and composition of each track. Though it can seem a bit self-indulgent, the truth is the sound is so decadent you almost feel as if you’re spoiling yourself rotten on its rich flavor. Songs like Can’t Live With The World and Is There Anybody Out There play with light and dark tones, using the playful twinkling of a xylophone and interspersing it between thick, heavy bode instrumentation. Then you have songs like Father, Father that are simply constructed, a vocal and a piano making up the greater part of the song. This contrast in style creates a remarkable blend of lushness and simplicity, resulting in an interactive listening experience.

It’s intelligent music, music that’s as enlightening as it is entertaining. It’s a rare phenomenon indeed to find an album that blends both soul and deep thought, both playing off each other brilliantly, yet both proving to be nothing short of an honest look into the artist’s heart. But Sing To The Moon accomplishes just that and provides music lovers with one of the most intriguing finds of 2013.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Camiele

As unexpected as my path was to loving all things weird, more unexpected is my ability to get attention for writing about the stuff.

11 Responses

  1. ghost says:

    UK-based R&B does seem more soulful than anything from the US. Can’t believe she used to be a lousy supply teacher, she mentioned it on Graham Norton.

    • Camiele says:

      @ghost, Really?! Wow, that’s very intriguing. And, yes, R&B in the States just doesn’t have the same soul and power, not like it used to anyway. There are some artists trying to bring it back, trying to put the blues back into it and focus on that as much as the rhythm part. But it seems slow coming and not in the creative onslaught that’s coming from the UK.

      • amy says:

        @Camiele, I thought the US was focused on club music right now. I heard JT’s album sold really well, like 800K in a day and age when people celebrate 250k sales. I could be wrong though, I’m lazy to look for data.

        I like Mvula’s voice. Her performance of Green Garden was great.

        • Camiele says:

          @amy, Yeah… “club music.” I’ve got no use for it. For what it’s worth, I listened to JT’s album and it’s definitely a step removed from what we’re used to hearing from him. I’m gonna write more about it when I review his album, but it’s a decent piece of music, not as club-heavy as most radio stuff nowadays, but I have a theory about that that has nothing to do with most people saying he’s “reinventing R&B” and all that rubbish.

        • Rodrigo says:

          @amy, Just gave a listen to 3 of Mvula’s songs. I agree that Green Garden is a great song because it’s fun to listen to and it should get more exposure. She sounds good on She. But Like the Mountain Dew’s chorus didn’t made me enjoy the song. :S

          I think I’ll give her album a shot and then say how I feel about Mvula (as long as I don’t get lazy). I’m not an R&B listener on my own will, but I was a lot worse on that years ago.

          @Camiele, As for “club music”, I disagree about it being useless (depending on the moment I hear it) as it can make up for some fun moments. A few days ago, my day at work was kinda shitty and during the night, I worked for some minutes with my boss’s daughter (an MD). She put a Youtube video of a Martin Solveig concert and the way she was fangirling to “Hello” was both hilarious and cute. That moment alone made my shitty day turn into a good day. LOL.

          Or by “club music”, you mean certain type of artists?

  2. amy says:

    I have a question, what’s the difference between Soul and Neo Soul?

    • Camiele says:

      @amy, “Pure” soul is more an old-school concept: Sam Cooke, Etta James, James Brown, and the like. It stems directly from Gospel and is purely instrumental and vocal. “Neo-Soul” incorporates aspects of Hip-Hop and is more a combination of R&B, Soul, and Hip-Hop. You’ve got artists like Jill Scott, Musiq Souldchild, Goapele, Maxwell… they sort of ushered in that movement in the late 90s, early 2000s as a response to more straightforward, mainstream R&B, and instead created a genre that melds all those concepts together and uses more “earthy” songwriting.

  3. Camiele says:

    @Rodrigo, as far as “club music” goes, for the most part it’s completely useless to me as a genre. The “fun” of it is the same thing with memes: they can be cute and fun, but they have no real value for me otherwise. If I want to listen to music, “club music” isn’t what I’m interested in listening to. I may have an interest as far as getting a good bouncy laugh out of it, but musically… nothing.

    I wouldn’t classify this album as R&B. It’s something completely different, something singular and unique. R&B isn’t what it used to be, but it’s starting to go back to being about music as opposed to how many asses you can cram on a dance floor and how much you can make it sell.

    I love Mvula because her sound is unlike much of anything out there in terms of its scope. I adore “Like The Morning Dew” because there’s just so many layers to it and the composition is completely brilliant. But, whatever, to each his own.

    • amy says:

      @Camiele, this is the reason why Mvula’s album is important. Discussion on the value of club music. I do think that the American music market has reduced R&B and Hip Hop in general by the value of a beat. You only need a sick beat, and that’s it. But it really doesn’t matter the genre, it’s gone over to rock music, electronic- it’s all about the beat, and how hooky it can get. Content is no longer relevant.

      The value of the beat is important, for sure, but it’s just makes people like you or me just more picky about what they listen to. For instance, Singer Sen has some really sick beats, but the music she makes goes beyond that.

      • Rodrigo says:

        @amy, I agree, beat is heavily important. If it’s catchy, it’s a hit. I also think that this applies to all genres. Anyways, you reminded me of Chris Rock talking about rap music in a live show he did.

      • Camiele says:

        @amy, Absolutely agree. A beat is important as a piece of a complete whole of music. Like you said, Singer Sen has incredible beats. Bjork is NOTORIOUS for incredible beats. But a) they’re interesting and there’s something deeper there then just a bunch of bass to get buts on the dance floor, and b) there’s the backdrop to something more profound lyrically and musically. You’re right, this is exactly why Laura’s music is so important, because she expands the idea that any modern concept of music is simply a beat and everything else is secondary. Artists like Singer Sen, Bjork, Laura understand music as a whole and every part of it is important to make the music meaningful.

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