3/5 We desperately wanted this debut to dazzle us. A 22-year-old south London songbird, whose tiny and enthralling hometown solo shows have been among the hottest tickets going, La Havas has talent. She plays electric guitar like a young Graham Coxon – sinuous and lyrical yet never showy – while her voice manages to evoke both Feist’s innocence and Erykah Badu’s experience.
‘Don’t Wake Me Up’ makes for a vital opener as a sea of multi-tracked vocals are joined by descending, ‘Rolling in the Deep’-esque chords. The title tune is also a revelation, with more than a hint of ‘Single Ladies’ in its fast claps and thunderous vocals.
Yet outside the hushed intimacy of a small room (or indeed the Jools Holland TV studio where she found fame), the power of her pared-down melancholia is cruelly lost on record. Producer Matt Hales (aka Aqualung) has much to answer for when songs such as ‘Elusive’ and ‘Everything Everything’ are completely shorn of any zing, sparkle or bite. Lianne La Havas has a great record within her, but this isn’t it.