Review: Laura Mvula – Sing to the Moon
Published on April 3rd, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Last month, Rocksucker was trawling through the week’s singles – some rotten ones there were, too, as usual – when up popped something called “Green Garden” by one Laura Mvula. Quite taken aback by how fresh, original and downright excellent it sounded, we proceeded to describe it in the following terms…
Those chopped-up “ooh-WAH” backing vocals are bloody ingenious, elevating a decent sort of soul-pop strut into something quite captivating. This is a lesson in how to use electronically manipulated vocals to creative effect, rather than just whacking an AutoTune on some dullard or others.
As it goes on, it reveals itself as having more about it than just neat production touches, maintaining an air of magic and mystery that wholly justifies the ‘secret garden’ motif present in song and video. A surprising treat.
Turns out Mvula’s from Birmingham, this is her debut album, and her particular sound was summed up by The Guardian‘s Paul Lester as “gospeldelia”. Listening to Sing to the Moon opener “Like the Morning Dew”, this (admittedly clunky) tag strikes as being reasonably on the money: it’s beautiful, eccentric, technicolour, in love with the world, lush with harmonies and quite unlike anything else out there at the moment. Furthermore, a masterful dynamic shift between the quiet verse and splendorous wave of a chorus marks Mvula out as a bastion of true, spiritual musicality on a pop landscape founded largely on artifice and clinical industry produce.
Yours truly saw a poster advertising Sing to the Moon on London Underground recently, so fingers crossed this takes off because, as a catalyst for a burgeoning young imagination, this knocks an incalculable amount of spots off…well, pretty much everything in the charts.
Her voice is cut out for all sorts: “Make Me Lovely” is a slightly creepy sort of lunatic’s song, “Can’t Live With the World” a gentle, graceful, orchestra-assisted late-night jazz croon, while “Is There Anybody Out There?” sounds in its verse as desolate as its title suggests, then goes on into more orchestral splendour – which, crucially, flaunts the songwriting sophistication to back it up – and even a Beach Boys-y round of ba ba bas before ending up in paranoid wilderness.
“Father, Father” is an exemplary display of her vocal versatility, veering from loungey and soulful to impassioned lung-busting, and “That’s Alright” shows off a canny knack for affecting lyrics with “I will never be who you want me to be / And that’s alright / My skin ain’t light and my body ain’t tight”, not to mention its triumphant chorus of “Who made you the centre of the universe? / Who made you judge and jury over me?”, backed up by approving parps of brass. Commendation also for the ace clattering percussion, hummed breakdown section and twiddly ‘psych’ violin.
Elsewhere, there’s the twinkling, shimmering soul of “She”, the rolling march and dreamy rock pool siren song (yes, both!) of “I Don’t Know What the Weather Will Be”, the nocturnal orchestral swells of the verging-on-vintage-Disney-soundtrack “Diamonds” and the wondrous, moongazing title track, which takes flight over crashing drums and chips in with a lyric – “Sing to the moon and the stars will shine over you” – that with any luck will prove to be analogous with a fully deserved (and badly needed) rise to eminence. However much weight such a statement can carry at Easter, Laura Mvula has turned in one of the albums of the year so far.
Rocksucker says: Four and a Half Quails out of Five!
Sing to the Moon is out now on RCA Victor. For more information, please click here to visit Laura Mvula’s official website.