Lianne La Havas

  • Artist: Lianne La Havas (United Kingdom)
  • Album: Blood
  • Country of Origin: United Kingdom
  • Released: 31 July 2015
  • Genre: Neo Soul
  • Available on: Spotify, Google Play, Amazon Prime, iTunes, Pandora
  • Recommendation by Varun Badarinath

“A breath of fresh air” – a term that I feel is often overused, but I have no problem using that phrase for Lianne La Havas. As someone who tends to get entrenched in too much music (if there is such a thing), she gives me something new to look forward to. Lianne is an English singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist from the greater London area. Born to Jamaican and Greek parents, Lianne has drawn influences from across the spectrum, as well as the oceans. That being said, I think it would be a disservice to her and the music to define it solely based on race or heritage. While reading articles on Lianne that were written in the U.S., I find that she is often boxed into certain genres, like R&B or Soul, which is fine for a few songs, yet it is only the tip of the iceberg. Some artists are good enough to transcend categories, and this is easily the case for La Havas. She has a broad vocal range: smooth, yet powerful. Her bass lines are soulful, and compliment the dreamy, distant guitar playing. Her pop-sensibility has not gone to her head.

I first heard of Lianne La Havas while travelling to India last November. I first heard Lianne from NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series (which you should all follow on YouTube). She performed vocals/guitar and 2 backup singers/piano. The intimate setting of a small office was done justice by the excellent sound mixing of the recording engineer. The vocals didn’t overpower the instruments, and each singer sounded distinct. That being said, I think the talent was more important than the technology.

Blood is the highly anticipated follow up to La Havas’ 2012 debut, “Is Your Love Big Enough?”, which is another album to check out. Blood moves away from the singer-songwriter label, as La Havas starts crossing into uncharted territory, in terms of shedding genres. Each song has a distinct sound and feel to it, yet they all seem to flow together very smoothly. Lianne says she was inspired after visiting family in Jamaica and learning more about her heritage. She was able to dig her roots deeper with Reggae & Dancehall, while using her English/Greek upbringing to complement her style.

In terms of the Live setting, Lianne is able to bring it to the stage. She has been featured on numerous late night shows, including Conan O’Brien (twice – full band & solo) and Stephen Colbert. She is able to put her own live twists to her songs while retaining the quality of the studio sound.

Lianne was kind enough to release a companion EP, which was named Blood Solo, in 2016. This EP features 7 songs from the album, in a stripped down format; lead vocals and guitar. This highlights the strength of Lianne’s voice, and how a lone guitar can set a certain ambiance. She is able to branch out of her old style, and has been featured on a number of different albums, including Prince’s 2 most recent albums. She also made an appearance during Prince’s 9-minute performance on Saturday Night Live last year. It looks like a bright future for Lianne La Havas, and Blouses easily won the game!

Key Songs: Green & Gold, Tokyo, Ghost

Review by Varun Badarinath