Once lost now found, multiracial Londoner Lianne La Havas employs her sophomore release as a homage to her Jamaican/Greek heritage and the satisfying feeling of belonging. This epiphany stemmed from an educational journey of self-discovery (imagine an episode of Who Do You Think You Are?) that filled her heart with the hot colour of blood red, replacing the cold hue of Betty Blue – that pumped throughout the musician’s debut album Is Your Love Big Enough? That album was doubtful and insecure with its diary of love but intriguing in its range of perspectives, including: age-gap relationships, infidelity and unrealistic French cinema fantasies. No matter how tragic it seemed thematically, the warm and sunny vocal guidance of Lianne La Havas coated in sophisticated graciousness and humble charm felt safe.
Although similar records, Blood contains a happier and more appreciative interpretation of relationships, choosing to compliment rather than criticise. It succeeds in bringing new ideas and borrowing other genres’ flavours – e.g. jazz fusion and restrained drum ‘n’ bass on ‘Midnight’, Radiohead’s Weird Fishes-esque Tokyo, guitar improv like her friend Prince – whilst retaining many of the elements that make up her soulful folk. Her passionate voice is tougher and more heroic, showing up impeccably in tracks such as the swirling voice-holding on ‘Unstoppable’, Yukimi Nagano-accented ‘Green & Gold’ and elevated Beyoncé/Emeli Sande heights on ‘Midnight’. There is still an abundance of British gospel, that has inspired protégés Andreya Triana and Denai Moore, whilst the melodic strumming of her signature Harmony Alden Stratotone – that envisions tropical beaches – makes ‘Green & Gold’, and ‘Good Goodbye’ reminiscent of ‘They Could Be Wrong’ and ‘Age’ from her first album.
The fact that Matt Hales is back on the production team is beneficial to the cause; Mr. Aqualung was largely responsible for the debut’s triumph. However, he’s now only part of an assemblage of assistance that includes: Jamie Lidell, Howard Lawrence from Disclosure, Paul Epworth and appropriately Jamaican producer Stephen McGregor, to give the album sunshine riddims and closer connections with La Havas’ roots. Fortunately the cooks don’t spoil the broth and Blood has an enthralling balance of cohesion and eclecticism.
Heavenly and cosmological, the invigorating entrance to Blood is larger-than-life and one of the most accomplished beginnings to a record this year. As the title suggests, ‘Unstoppable’ is a motivational epic that takes the “love conquers all” mentality of They Could Be Wrong, swapping mortality for physics. Shivering orchestral suspense and evocative glowing energy glimmer over the funky groove of an ambitious Motown-style classic. ‘What You Don’t Do’ continues this nostalgic vibe with journalists fairly comparing its rhythm to Sly and the Family Stone. However, its magic lies in the contrast between its clouded instrumental and La Havas’ crystal clear exclamations.
Yet the biggest juxtaposition is the striking Never Get Enough. Sandwiched between the two most forgettable tracks on the album ‘Ghost’ and ‘Good Goodbye’, ‘Never Get Enough’ schizophrenically breaks into the fuzzy groan of Wolf Alice with La Havas adopting a megaphonic filter. Rock market intentions?
Patriotically, Green and Gold is the most important track on the album. Displaying the colours of the Jamacian flag in its title, it also refers to her Greek ancestry. A pathway of acceptance that Lianne La Havas calls it a “chronological autobiography”, it begins by documenting the difficulties of being a multi -racial child: “Staring at my nose in the mirror/Thinking who’s that girl?” before embracing the diversity of her genetic make-up with gratitude. If that doesn’t convince you to research your family tree, nothing will.