Lianne La Havas' "Is Your Love Big Enough?"

Lianne La Havas' "Is Your Love Big Enough?"

  • Article by: Jon O'Brien
  • Posted: 08/08/2012

Formerly a backing vocalist for Paloma Faith, a writing partner of Aqualung balladeer Matt Hales and constantly described as the new Corinne Bailey Rae, folk-soul Londoner Lianne La Havas’ resume couldn’t be more middle-of-the-road if it tried.  

But as the likes of Bon Iver, (who invited her to support them on their North American tour after witnessing her breakthrough performance on the BBC’s Later…with Jools Holland), will attest to, the 22-year-old is more than just your run-of-the-mill coffeehouse singer-songwriter. Her sophisticated debut, Is Your Love Big Enough? (8/7/12, Nonesuch Records), makes this quite clear as well.

Opener “Don’t Wake Me Up” begins with a layered a cappella vocal reminiscent of Imogen Heap before it segues effortlessly into a languid fusion of staccato R&B licks and gentle trip-hop beats. The title track’s slightly surreal lyrics (“I found myself in a second hand guitar”) are accompanied by a fervent blend of gospel melodies and impossibly infectious handclaps, while the old-fashioned romance of “Au Cinema” is a gorgeous slice of Gallic-tinged lounge-pop worthy of gracing the best of Bacharach’s back catalogue. 

“Lost and Found,” an affecting piano-led confessional which provides the album’s Adele moment, and the sparse dreamy jazz of “No Room For Doubt,” a duet with US troubadour Willy Mason, are just as mesmerising. 

But even La Havas’ sultry and surprisingly powerful vocals barely rescue the string of unremarkable acoustic ballads which appear towards the latter part of the record, from the pointless cover version of Scott Matthews’ “Elusive” to the dreary nu-soul of “Tease Me,” all of which descend into the kind of dinner party music fare she’d previously and impressively avoided. 

Is Your Love Big Enough? therefore doesn’t quite sustain the spark of its promising first half, but there’s enough here to explain why both Stevie Wonder and Prince have recently become enamoured by La Havas’ charms. 

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