-- By Stephen Thompson, NPR Music
In a crowded marketplace for young, big-voiced pop singers, it takes nuance and charisma to stand out; blaring pipes aren't enough. A 22-year-old from London, Lianne La Havas possesses a rich, expressive voice - but also, more importantly, a keen understanding of when to dial it back. She can power through big notes, sure, but listen to "Lost & Found" and you'll hear a darkly melancholy heir to Meshell Ndegeocello's masterful, slow-burning Bitter.
That song is just one standout from La Havas' terrific, genre-straddling debut album, Is Your Love Big Enough? Elsewhere, she indulges in everything from Imogen Heap-style Vocoder experiments (the album-opening "Don't Wake Me Up") to alluringly springy jazz-pop ("Au Cinema") to playfully old-fashioned goofs ("Age"), while still crafting a contemporary pop sound that makes do without hyper-modern production spangle. Taken collectively, Is Your Love Big Enough? - out August 7 - is the stuff of Best New Artist Grammys, which so often reward this kind of hyper-accessible entry point into a smart, sophisticated sound world.
La Havas retains her capacity to surprise throughout Is Your Love Big Enough? Whether sharing a winsome duet with Willy Mason in "No Room for Doubt" - they're an ingenious vocal pairing - or repurposing Scott Matthews' 2007 folk-pop gem "Elusive," she sings and swings with confidence and charm, style and sway.
Is Your Love Big Enough? will be available to stream on demand from July 30 through August 6, 2012.
Lianne La Havas