"My head's held high when we walk down the line"
Sometimes an initial listen to a new album can give you the wrong impression. When I heard Lianne La Havas’ sophomore effort in early August, it threw me slightly. Having appreciated her debut album as an enjoyable offering of pop-flecked neo-soul, I was fascinated to hear where she’d go next, but I was temporarily bamboozled by Blood’s more beat-heavy music, considering it to be perhaps a little over-produced and not giving La Havas enough room to breathe throughout the album.
Two months after its release and after repeated listens, Blood has started to make more sense to me. Patience has paid off and it has become more obvious that La Hava’s was making a concerted effort to connect with her Jamaican heritage. Sure, the production still seems bass heavy, but it’s certainly not to the detriment of the material, infact at times it genuinely enhances a tune.
Opening with pre-album single “Unstoppable”, Blood promises an upbeat pop experience, but as the album progresses and the beats starts to dominate the tunes, it becomes ever more obvious that this is a more dense and mature album than La Havas’ debut. It still has the sparkling neo-soul moments, but they contrast with something darker and more deep-pile. It’s not that the songs are lyrically darker, it’s the album’s tone which seems a little more aggressive and moodier.
There are moments of levity, where the production is peeled away and a song is carried by La Havas’ voice and some stripped back instrumentation, however these are often just the opening verse of a song, before it is once again enveloped by the heavyweight production. Blood is not an album you can put on in the background. It demands the attention of the listener and at the end of its economic forty one minutes, you feel you’ve experienced something vital and have expended no little emotional energy listening to it.
As much as I like Blood, I hope that Lianne La Havas continues to vary the mood and tone of her albums. I feel she’s someone that could record an astounding ‘unplugged’ album, where the instrumentation is pared back to the absolute bare bones and her voice takes absolute centre stage. Having said that, there’s many neo-soul acts doing that sort of thing at the moment, so perhaps Blood was a conscious attempt to by La Havas to distance herself from her peers. Whatever the case, Blood is an album that rewards repeated listens, just make sure that you’ve got the mental and emotional energy that it demands of you.