I haven’t been able to get around to posting lately, so now’s a great time to take on one of my first items of ‘business,’ my first full-fledged Artist Spotlight post in…ouch. It’s been nearly 3 full years. The last time I did a full Artist Spotlight was on Sia in Feb. 2012. She kind of exploded after that, didn’t she? (I also did a mini-spotlight on New Zealand rising star Kimbra, back in May of that year, as well.) These spotlights are usually pretty involved posts to make (I tend to let my fanboying get away from me here…), and thus they usually get superseded in some form by much shorter, quicker Songs of the Day, new features I’m trying out, what have you. Hopefully that can change going forward. (I mean, this used to be the most common feature I had on the blog. It’s still one of my favorites.) For now, let’s shine a very bright spotlight on an incredible talent from the UK…
Laura was one of the first artists I discovered after returning home from my mission. I’m not entirely sure how I ended up stumbling upon her music…I think I might have seen her name in a few places, somewhere on iTunes, maybe it was a recommendation that it gave me, I’m not sure…and decided to check her out, just out of the blue. I started listening…and was blown away. I was fortunate enough to have a free trial to a music streaming service at that time (this was a little bit before I signed up with Spotify), so I was able to listen to her debut album, “Sing To The Moon” (released in 2013), with great ease…and the rest is history, as we say.
The music of Laura Mvula is pretty difficult to categorize. It has elements of soul, R&B, jazz, classical music (she’s conservatory trained and started off in the classical genre), pop, gospel, folk…there are lots of varied influences at work here. Yet, she brings it all beautifully, gorgeously together into her own riveting, unique sound. Her vocals, her writing, the production…it’s all unforgettable and, like any good artist, Laura draws you right into her musical world.
One of the first songs Laura reportedly wrote, and the lead single for her debut album, is called “She,” and it’s as good an introduction as any to her singular craft. I’m still floored every time I listen to it. The music video for the song is terrific as well. Watch and listen here:
Here’s another side of Laura’s artistry…an feisty and bold, yet empowering and uplifting anthem of self-worth, “That’s Alright.” She proclaims, “I will never be what you want, and that’s alright…’cause my skin ain’t light…and my body ain’t tight…but if I might, I must stand and fight.” And just listen to the music surrounding her as she sings that…it’s incredible. This is another song with a killer music video:
This year, Laura released a collaboration with the Metropole Orkest, a re-recording of the entirety of “Sing To The Moon.” It seems like a strange decision at first to simply release the same songs again, but with an orchestra, they come even more alive. In the case of another one of her singles, “Green Garden,” I actually prefer the version with the orchestra…the strings and orchestration are brilliant, and the track just seems even more organic and vibrant. Take a listen:
As demonstrated by “She” above, Laura really knows how to craft a moving ballad. “Father Father,” which is said to have been inspired by her parents’ separation, is absolutely heartbreaking. I love the orchestral version as well, but the original, with little more than a piano for most of the song, really hits it home.
I really wish I could just have you listen to all her music right here and now, but I should refrain. One last track before I stop myself…this is the opening track on “Sing To The Moon”…a song called “Like The Morning Dew.” Just let Laura take you on a ride:
I can’t stress enough how much I’ve been captivated by Laura Mvula and how amazing she is. This is music of the highest quality, and it’s so original and inventive and…I just love it. There are quite a few artists very high on my favorites list, but in the space of just 5 or 6 short months, Laura has scaled it to land very, very near the top. I have a feeling it’ll be the same story for you too, if you take the chance to listen to what she has to say.
I’ll be back soon with more posting (now that the Artist Spotlight has officially returned, I hope to bring it back more often), including the long-awaited (hey, at least by me) Best Albums of 2014 list. (Yes, I’m going to call it a best-of list. More on that later.) Also, since of course we’re in the lovely month of December, Christmas music shall be coming to town. Many thanks for checking out Harmony Avenue, as always.