Laura Mvula, The Tabernacle, London
Tuesday 05 March 2013
There’s much talk of The New Boring, the supposed prevalence of a staid, pleasant, young fogeyish tendency in new music - the success of your Michael Kiwanukas, Adeles and Ben Howards being its most obvious symptom.
You could slot the subtle, tasteful music of Birmingham songwriter Laura Mvula neatly into this tide of tedium. My parents always told me, though, that only boring people get bored, and if you invest a little patient listening in these sophisticated songs, they reveal a nature that is anything but ordinary.
Though she worked on her debut album ‘Sing To The Moon’ with Tom Elmhirst, a Grammy-award winner who has also worked with Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen and the aforementioned Adele, Mvula defies cookie-cutter categories. The songs betray her Birmingham Conservatoire classical training in deft and unexpected structural left turns and unusual arrangements that romp through many more genres than just soul or pop. There’s an imaginative ambition to songs such as ‘Like The Morning Dew’ with its psych-folk tinged meanderings among rolls of martial drums that bring to mind Joanna Newsom rather than, say, Emeli Sande.
‘She’ deploys a favourite trick, a sudden swell of closely chorused backing vocals (courtesy of a band that includes both her brother and sister) before galloping away with increasingly aggressive drums. It’s the shape of these songs rather than melody or emotion that commands the attention in a quiet way, and they do so best when at their most adventurous, as with the practically proggy ‘Is There Anybody Out There’, played for the first time live tonight, but less so on the more run-of-the-mill love soul of ‘Let Me Fall’. ‘Father, Father’, played with simple intensity, has a medieval folk feel live, and recalls the emotional purity of classic, jazzy singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell or Laura Nyro, while the brass-tinged bebop lark of closer ‘Alright’ indulges a more playful side.
If the post-Winehouse kittenish of Mvula’s voice can sometimes irk with its quirkiness, it never feels like she’s the primary focus here; as she puts it, “This is really about celebrating music I’ve grown up with playing in my family, and it’s really a communal celebration, not just about me. “For once it doesn’t sound like false modesty. Boring is as boring does after all, and Mvula is quietly doing more than enough to deserve your attention.
Like The Morning Dew
Let Me Fall
What The Weather
Is There Anybody Out There?
Sing To The Moon
Flying Without You
TVJamie's Sugar Rush reveal's campaigning chef's new foe
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 President Obama leaves touching comment on Humans of New York photo from Iran
- 2 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 3 The Chinese city where men have 'three girlfriends because there are so many women'
- 4 German police forced to ask public to stop bringing donations for refugees arriving by train
- 5 Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
First Look at Bryan Cranston transformed into LBJ for HBO’s ‘All the Way’ film
The real reason Eddie Redmayne was cast as a trans woman in The Danish Girl
Star Wars: New action dolls launched on Force Friday ahead of The Force Awakens release
Ricki And The Flash, film review: Meryl Streep's rock'n'roll creation steals the show
Photographer captures the beauty and intensity of his girlfriend giving birth at home
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up