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Laura Mvula - An uplifting soul vision
on 4 March 2013
Laura Mvula is a new and prodigious talent from Birmingham who would be well advised to demand a recount from the BBC's poll the Sound of 2013. Here she finished fourth behind the rather average American band Haim. On the evidence of this debut album "Sing to the Moon" she was robbed. Mvula arrives in the most crowded of musical fields and the key to success here is the ability to present extra dimensions in terms of both singing and song writing, She is probably fed up already with comparisons to Nina Simone but they do echo throughout this record which is one of the reasons that why parts of it are so special. Some of the music on here has already been previewed in her earlier EP "She" released in November last year yet they fit wonderfully into the context of this debut when we witness Laura Mvula's talent in the round. Opener "Like the morning dew" is a case in point. It opens with a wall of voices alia the Beach Boys and then moves into a tender ballad where Mvula's phrasing and vocals are exemplary. It is on "Green Garden" where the Simone comparison is perhaps most obvious not least with the "Sinnerman" style hand claps in the background and the almost spoken vocal. It is nonetheless a great R & B song which deserves its rightful status as a sparkling single. Other songs like the aching ballad "Can't live with the world" and the joyous almost Pet Sounds sounding "Is there anybody out there" show the foundations for an incredible talent. It is a contest however between "Father Father" and "She" which vie for the albums best track. The former is a sublime jazzy piano ballad which will replay repeated listens. "She" alternatively has the edge with it wonderful melody, superb backing and a timeless quality. Mvula's spoken vocal draws you into the song describing how "She walked towards you with her head down low/ She wondered if there was a way out of the blue/Who's gonna take her home this time? She knew that this time wouldn't be the last time". This moves into a huge choral backdrop which is both haunting and immaculate. Indeed you must promise to seek out the sterling video that accompanies the song.
There are a couple of missteps here with "Flying without you" being rather to clever for its own good and far too close for comfort to Amy Winehouse circa her debut "frank", whilst "I know what the weather will be" is rather lightweight and frankly lacks a memorable tune. The title track makes up for these deficiencies. It is slow and glacial ballad which builds gradually into a huge anthem accompanied by almost military style drums. Even better is the last track "Diamonds" where Mvula's voice receives its best showcase on a truly beautiful song. There are some nice extras bolted onto the deluxe edition not least demo's of "She" and "Green Garden" plus solid live versions of "Father Father" and "Diamonds" all are which are fascinating but not completely vital in the context of very polished main body of work.
"Sing to Moon" presents a singer laden with promise and possibilities of much great things to come. As it stands this debut is a big calling card for Laura Mvula and if there is any justice it will grab the hearts and minds of the record buying public. Her ambition on this work is to be applauded containing as it does music ranging from classic orchestral chamber music to retro soul. The fact that it doesn't all work is a consequence of this, yet when it all the parts come together Mvula presents us with a uplifting soul vision which is destined for great things.