Lianne La Havas’ last record Is Your Love Big Enough was like a dimly-lit candle in a small room. It flickered with an endearing charm that always felt intimate and condensed. Her second, Blood is far more expansive. It flowers with lush orchestral arrangements and a vocal that pushes itself far more than it did on the debut.
Blood comes three years after the release of her debut and packs a whole heap of life experience into it both in terms of its lyrics and musicality. It was inspired by her time in Jamaica and the name of Blood is credited to the fact that it’s an exploration of her Greek and Jamaican bloodlines. Unsurprisingly it’s an interesting listen - one that jaunts between the experimental and the classical. One thing is consistent, however, and that’s its physicality. More so than her first, Blood really comes to life, pulling on the heartstrings, moving the hips and placing butterflies in the stomach.
In light of that, here are the different parts of the body that Lianne La Havas’ Blood runs through.
On La Havas’ Is Your Love Big Enough her voice was beautiful - it was quaint and delicate but she never quite let it fly like she does on Unstoppable. Unstoppable is a vocal masterclass. She trills and curves her vocals around careful melodies as she works her way up to the pinnacle lyrics, “we are unstoppable.” It’s almost as if she breathes in at that very moment and unleashes all of her vocal power letting out a crisp but powerful note. It’s the perfect way to match the strength of the lyrics which describe the force of La Havas with her lover whoever he may be - lucky, lucky man. It’s worth noting that she worked on this with Paul Epworth, the producer who’s worked with huge vocalists like Florence Welch and Adele.
Lips: Green & Gold
In music there are two modes that accompany lyrics that describe where an artist is at in their tug-of-war with life - they’re either having a “what the hell am I doing with my life?” moment or they’re seeing the world with rose coloured glasses. Green & Gold is the metaphorical smile of Blood. “Suddenly it seems I’m where I’m supposed to be,” she sings with a refreshing optimism. “I think you should write about when you're happy as much as when you're sad,” she recently told Fairfax and Blood pulls that balance off. Too often do you hear heartbreak records so it’s a testament to La Havas that she’s managed to make happiness just as appealing.
Hips: What You Don’t Do
At this point we should perhaps address the elephant in the room. In addition to La Havas’ gorgeous songwriting, she’s stunning. She’s got an effortless allure about the way she moves and conducts herself in videos and on-stage. What You Don’t Do takes that sensual physicality and puts it into song. What You Don’t Do is easily the sexiest song on the record. Metaphorically-speaking, it moves its hips back and forth like a tease. Its lyrics are joyous and sassy while the melody is cheeky. “The closer we get, the less we need to show,” she sings with a hushed intimacy. You can almost hear the clothes slipping off.
When you miss someone, you miss their touch more than anything. It’s why the action of hugging is the most common sight at an airport. When you hug someone you feel the warmth of two chests meeting each other with a comforting easiness. La Havas’ songwriting matches feeling with physicality and in Tokyo she marries the feeling of loneliness and yearning with physicality. “I’m longing just to feel you,” she sings, using that feeling of touch to cure loneliness and the feeling of being cold. The warmth in that thought is emulated by gentle guitar plucks and the loungey vibe.
“You can trip, flick a switch like a thief/Break the circuit between us/But electricity lingers/In our fingers,” La Havas sings like a poet on Blood’s most twilight moment. Wonderful’s delicacy is all in the fingers. Musically there are clicks, lyrically electricity is running through the fingers. It’s an incredibly bare-boned track that brings back the flickering candle vibes that ran through much of her debut. Interestingly she wrote this track with Howard Lawrence from Disclosure and while it’s worlds away from their deep-house shtick, it draws comparisons to Help Me Lose My Mind with its twilight atmosphere and reliance on another person's undefinable touch.
Butterflies in the stomach is probably one of the least explained sensations of the human body but one of the most sung-about. It’s usually elicited by nerves, excitement or nostalgia and on Midnight, La Havas uses the after midnight timeframe because in art it’s the most romantic and mysterious. On Midnight, she’s completely lovestruck, calling out for a lover to join her at midnight probably because she’s feeling those after-dark butterflies. This is the most uncertain song on the record as she’s waiting for “the train,” as she puts it. Uncertainty is always nerve-wracking and exciting simultaneously. The twinkling keys and dizzying brass pull that feeling off.
On Grow, the intimate guitar strums and crisp atmosphere are joined by crunching percussion on one of her more experimental choruses. “Turn up the love,” she almost shouts with an uncharacteristic desperation in her voice. Grow doesn’t tug on the heartstrings as much as it does make it pulse. It has a raw energy that thunders through it as La Havas is both scared and determined. “The future we don’t know, unless we’re together,” she sings in naivety, thinking she’ll be dealt a crystal ball. While the brain is the boss most of the time, the heart is the only thing that can overcome it and make us think some crazy shit.
For the most part on this album La Havas is never stuck in the middle. She’s either heartbroken or lovestruck, saying hello or saying goodbye but on Ghost she’s at a crossroads. “Lost somewhere between a foe and a friend,” she sings with confusion and frustration over one of the darker instrumentals of the LP. It’s dizzying the way she explains it (“round and round we go”) and for once it feels as if she’s not in control. Her mind is playing games with her and there are imperfections in her thoughts. She’s seeing ghosts for one and that’s always a good sign that your brain’s maybe losing it a bit.
Head: Never Get Enough
Yes, there’s a head-thrasher on a Lianne La Havas record. She’s spoken about this record fusing together influences from Billie Holiday and Radiohead and this is the track where it shines through most. It starts with a delicate guitar strum but expands into a reverb-soaked chorus worthy of a Radiohead record. It’s angsty, sexy and determined. Her voice doesn’t break like your usual rock-chick vocalist but instead she manages to inject some density into her usually honey-laden vocals. The crushing drums shake up Blood masterfully and give the record some much needed mud. This is the type of track you’d plant your feet and throw your head back and forth to.
Eyes: Good Goodbye
Here’s the album’s tear-jerker. On Blood, La Havas really tracks all the emotions but it’s never quite as emotional as it is on Good Goodbye. She gently introduces swelling orchestral instrumentation under her melancholic vocal which sways effortlessly. The track is a beautiful illustration of grief - “All I’d ask if why’d you leave so soon/everybody seems to,” she sings sounding heart-crushingly lonely.