Review Summary: Enough, for the time being.
Two years after 2011, which was an important year for soul music, although for two vastly different reasons (the death of Amy Winehouse and the mainstream success of Adele), in comes another British representative of the genre, Laura Mvula, also the possessor of a voice that is at the very least distinctive. Comparisons were quickly made, logically. But her debut single, “She”, which was delicate and peaceful but never too dramatic, set her apart from such compatriots. It was simple yet still engaging, and even a little optimistic. It generated a lot of expectation for her debut album, “Sing to the Moon
”, which, although satisfying, doesn’t completely live up to the names of its predecessors.
The album is consistent more often than it's not. Upbeat songs and downcast ones take turns entertaining the listener. Opener track “Like the Morning Dew” is quick to show Mvula’s voice, first in a burst of joy, then amidst low notes that don’t really belong in the 21st century. In “That’s Alright” the singer demonstrates an irreverent attitude, but fortunately doesn’t even approach the cockiness others would show if they tried to do the same. The nearly tribal beats of the verse are quickly softened by horns in the chorus, while she asks “Who made you the center of the universe?”. Slow songs include the gorgeous “She” and the strangely uplifting title track, whose violins and slow drumming in the chorus are almost cathartic.
However, in the sad moments, Mvula tends to stumble more than she does on the optimistic ones, something very uncommon for a soul singer. Having studied in the Birmingham Conservatoire, she has the curious ability of composing arrangements that are complex despite being almost skeletal at times. That skill doesn’t always play in her favor, as in “Can’t Live with the World”, a track that overstays its welcome and has nothing to redeem itself for doing so. Also, Laura’s taste for delicate melodies is sometimes exaggerated. “Is There Anybody Out There?” and “Father, Father” would be greatly benefited by more instruments and more impactful, less held-down vocal performances.
The ups and downs of “Sing to the Moon
” suggest that maybe Laura simply needs time to perfect her music. This is a debut album, and those are rarely fully-polished works. “Make Me Lovely” and “Green Garden” sound like drafts of something far better which is yet to come. “Flying Without You” and “I Don’t Know What The Weather Will Be”, although bad, show a taste for experimentation that can pay big rewards in the future. And the lyrics may also get better once rid of clichés and vagueness. The best moments here are more than sufficiently good to make their creator worth following, and “Sing to the Moon
”, worth listening.