Happy release day to Lianne La Havas!
I spent about an hour of my Outer Banks vacation running on the beach while listening to NPR’s First Listen of Blood and was made deliriously happy. “Green & Gold” and “What You Don’t Do” jumped out as early favorites before “Wonderful” stole the title away for good with its masterful pacing and phrasing — the way languid recollections morph into staccato choruses with lyrics that toe the line between clever wordplay and emotional precision. I found myself thinking back on old relationships, trying to identify which parts of them were “kind of wonderful.” It was fitting for a beach trip I’ve been taking with my family for more than 20 years — decades in which I was trying to figure out what a wonderful relationship was.
The deeper into the album I got, the more this idea of a triumvirate emerged — that what makes Blood so special is the intersection of La Havas’ voice, her arpeggiated guitar notes and the downbeat. About half the songs start with unaccompanied, deconstructed guitar chords, and if you’re listening for the first time, there are a few especially charged moments where you’re not sure what the time signature is yet, and notes are swirling around you without the strict sense of order that percussion will eventually impose. “Tokyo” was especially thrilling in this respect, with a math-y feel that calls Jonny Greenwood and “Weird Fishes” to mind. Add in La Havas’ voice, which is so easy to get lost in, and you’ve got something truly enveloping — a total experience that’s like being transported or surrounded. You can close your eyes and completely disappear into Blood, especially in its quieter passages.
Its grander passages are just as powerful — try out the big, bold opening track “Unstoppable” below.