Album of the Week: Lianne La Havas, 'Lianne La Havas'

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Lianne La Havas, 'Lianne La Havas' self-titled album
Lianne La Havas, 'Lianne La Havas' (Nonesuch Records / Warner Records)
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Sean McPherson - Album of the Week: Lianne La Havas, 'Lianna La Havas'
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When I first got my hands on the new Lianne La Havas album I hit play from my keyboard and immediately thought I had accidentally triggered a mid-2000s Just Blaze production for Roc-A-Fella Records. The opening track, "Bittersweet," opens with that slinky, patient, soulful ooze that makes up the backbone of albums like The Blueprint, Philadelphia Freeway and more. But I was wrong, Lianne was bringing that sound and spirit with nary a sample clearance required. Instead, Lianne and her band are channeling the song-first soul aesthetic of artists like Roberta Flack, Minnie Ripperton and Lianne's collaborator and supporter, Prince. On this record we find Lianne paring down the dense production and sonic ambition of her earlier records and letting the songs sit center stage. With this new self-titled effort we have an artist delivering an album length autopsy on a failed relationship with unflinching honesty: the good, the bad, the carnal and thank god, the funky.

I had the honor of having a discussion with Lianne weeks in advance of the release of Lianne La Havas and she illuminated how relaxed her approach to the record was. She pointed out that the tune "Paper Thin" wasn't even put down to a metronome click track (a wildly common practice to make editing and overdubs a cinch given that everything is to a grid). Instead, we get to hear that conversation between a singer-songwriter and a drummer run down in real time: the hiccups, the drops, the fret noise hesitation. Look, when La Havas sings "your heart's wide open" and then whispers "just give me another key" I could give two sh**s if the drummer is pushing the BPMs up a touch. I'm listening to the soul of an amazing human and I'm glad Lianne and every other producer on this album got out of the way.

Put on Lianne La Havas and trace the story of love lost, revisited, reimagined and resolved. The album opens and closes with the song Bittersweet, a pretty fitting opener and closer to give a sense of the journey that exist in the other nine tracks.

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