Tag Archives: Lianne La Havas

Sound Gaze

sound-gaze

As shock from the election wears off, the question of how to move forward looms large. Growing numbers of demonstrations and walk-outs offer a preview of how freedom of assembly can and should be used to oppose discriminatory rhetoric and practices. You can donate to worthy organizations who will face uphill battles in the years ahead. Subscribing to a newspaper seems like a solid response at the moment — never has it been more important that we commit to gathering information from reputable sources.

In addition to marching in the streets, there are other ways we can stand beside one another, and I thought I’d point to one gesture I admired:Doug Nunnally’s special “I’m With Them” Sound Gaze podcasts, which were posted over the weekend. Nunnally assembled more than six hours of songs by woman musicians — three curated by him and three more curated by other woman musicians. At a time when gender dynamics seem to have been set back decades overnight, it’s more important than ever to amplify the voices of those who are forced to fight against marginalization, and I think that’s what Doug is attempting to do here.

There are a zillion amazing artists included in these six hours, so I recommend chipping away a little at a time as I am, but I thought I’d close with a track from a personal favorite who was included in “I’m With Them,” Lianne la Havas.

Lianne la Havas — “Midnight” [Spotify/iTunes]

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Lianne La Havas

Lianne La Havas

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.

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Aqualung

Aqualung

Underneath the eggshells, guess what I found? Solid ground.

As someone who lives with a non-small amount of anxiety, and who says “I’m sorry” somewhere between a dozen and a hundred times a day, I can’t tell you how powerful the payoff of this lyric was the first time I heard it. I’m planning on keeping this song close by, both for the soothing effect it has and for Lianne La Havas’ guest appearance, which is characteristically wonderful.

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Generationals

Actor-Caster

If you checked out the series of 3 “New Year’s Reso-tune-tions” that I did last week, you might remember that my first vow was to cheer up a bit, musically speaking. Of course I broke that promise to myself almost immediately by posting a moody but totally beautiful song called “No Room For Doubt” by Lianne La Havas. My bad. I just can’t help it! So many of my favorite songs sound like downers, even when their lyrics are upbeat and inspirational — Gillian Welch’s “Hard Times” really stands out in this respect. But I’m not giving up, and Generationals are helping to push me in the right direction. My big-city friend Coyle sent me two colorfully named Generationals tunes via Spotify late last year — “Black And White” and “Greenleaf” — and the more I listen to them, the more it becomes clear that they offer the inverse of “Hard Times.” Even though they deal with complicated or ambiguous emotions, there’s an unfailing sunniness to both tracks. Take “Greenleaf,” for example. The lyrics have a vaguely indicting tone, but there are two high-pitched piano parts that keep the track feeling light and fun — one that provides constant, driving eighth-notes and a second, even more cheery melodic line that speeds up ever so slightly, as if it’s so happy to be there, it can’t wait for the rest of the music to catch up. See what I mean below, and if you feel as uplifted as I did, you can click here to snag their 2011 album Actor-Caster on iTunes.

Generationals — “Greenleaf

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Lianne La Havas

Lost & Found

New Year’s Reso-tune-tion #3 — Forethought is my friend!

(click here for Reso-tune-tion #2 and here for Reso-tune-tion #1)

Those who know me best are aware that I have a hopelessly damaged one-of-a-kind sense of time. I won’t go into detail, as it would take quite a while (and probably half a box of crayons) to explain exactly how time works in my brain, but suffice it to say things tend to sneak up on me. This is both good and bad. It’s good in that my life is full of surprises — “Oh wow, our vacation in the Outer Banks is next week?!? Awesome!” But it’s bad in that I don’t realize engagements overlap until it’s too late — “If we’re leaving for the Outer Banks on Saturday, that means I can’t go to the Bon Iver concert at the National…” That one stung. But I have a secret weapon that’s going to ensure that forethought somehow squirms its way into my consciousness in 2012: the calendar. OK, before you’re all, “Whoa! Hey! That’s crazy! It’ll never work!”, hear me out. The moment I find out about a concert or album release date that I don’t want to miss, I’m going to add it to a special Google Calendar (aka the YHT Pumped Up Calendar) that I’ve created for this very purpose. Plus, I’m going to make it public, so all you fine people can join in on the fun. To check it out, just click here, or click the calendar that’s sitting with the rest of the social networking links. I’ve already added a bunch of shows and releases, but the one that inspired me to get started was Lianne La Havas’ Forget EP. She released a pair of EPs in 2011, one live and one in-studio, and both were fantastic, each one an invitation to fall more and more in love with her graceful voice and warm demeanor. So when she tweeted that a new EP would be coming out on February 13 (fingers crossed that date is for the North American audience as well), I didn’t want to forget. Because I do want Forget. Wait, what? Moving on… If you live across the pond, some of the songs that will be featured on the February 13 physical release are already available on iTunes. Since us ‘mericans aren’t quite as lucky, I invite you to listen below to “No Room for Doubt,” from her Lost & Found EP, and join me in getting excited for her next installment. Now if only I could add a Lianne La Havas concert to the Pumped Up Calendar as well…

Lianne La Havas (feat. Willy Mason) — “No Room For Doubt

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Lianne La Havas

In the good old days, before it was taken over by Groupon and Living Social, people used to use email for all sorts of things… checking in with friends (“Hey asshole, you still owe $50 for fantasy football.”), coordinating bachelorette parties (“I don’t want to do anything too crazy you guys, maybe just some wine tasting or a spa day and then I guess we can go out for a little later that night but NOTHING TOO CRAZY YOU GUYS FOR REAL”), even staying in touch with family (“Mom I need $50 for fantasy football can you send a check thanks love you bye”). Email also used to be one of my favorite ways to follow bands. I’ve always enjoyed Guster’s updates and studio journals, penned by drummer-who-could-very-well-be-a-writer Brian Rosenworcel (not to be confused with singer-who-wrote-a-really-cool-children’s-novel Colin Meloy of the Decemberists), but I haven’t kept up with email lists as much lately — especially since so many seem like they’re coming directly from record companies, sporting rich HTML and graphics, and don’t come close to fostering a one-on-one connection with the artist. I’m happy to say that Lianne La Havas has snapped me out of my complacency. The first few messages to her list have been refreshing in their lighthearted humor and sense of intimacy. In addition to updates about shows and releases, she imparts weekly advice, like “Eat more soup. You stay fuller for longer,” and “Remember never to swallow the snot” — both excellent tips. In her most recent email, she included a link to her hypnotic Take-Away Show, which everyone should stop what they’re doing and watch immediately, and she also reminded us that she’d be appearing on Later… with Jools Holland. Her companions on Later…’s circular sound stage last night included Bon Iver and Feist, altogether a perfect storm of “Shit… does Verizon get BBC2?” The answer is no. Or I couldn’t find it. In any case, I waited patiently for video of the proceedings to show up online, and La Havas gave a performance of her song “Age” that was well worth the wait. Standing at the convergence of two spotlights, alone on the massive Later… stage, she brought to life the song’s sophisticated marriage of vulnerability and assertiveness, finger picking an electric guitar and singing in a voice that was sultry one moment and forceful the next. All throughout, her smile and apparent warmth echoed the personality I found in her electronic correspondence, filling the studio and leaving me all the more excited to receive her next update. Check out her Later… performance of “Age” above and the version from her Live in L.A. EP below, which you can snag for the meager price of an email address (rest assured, this is one email list you won’t bemoan joining).

Lianne La Havas — “Age

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Lianne La Havas

Life Cycle Week, Stage 1: Lianne La Havas

Over the weekend, I was thinking about how rewarding it is to follow musicians (and not just on Twitter … although that can be rewarding too, especially if you want to hear the lead singer of Weezer say things like, “Any other guys out there uncomfortable eating whole bananas?”). Watching talented people move through the life cycle of a career in music is fascinating, and I thought it would be fun this week to take a look at a few artists who are in different stages of this cycle, starting with a singer who is just embarking on what looks to be a very promising career. I stopped by the Black Cab Sessions website recently and came across London-based vocalist Lianne La Havas. With her guitar in hand and a charming smile on her face, she gracefully glides through a catchy song about dating an older man. The site doesn’t list the song’s name, and a search for key words came up dry (if anyone knows what it is, I’m dying to know! [UPDATE: The song is called “Age.” It was right in front of my face the whole time.]), but the ambivalent lyrics flow seamlessly, like an intimate conversation with a trusted friend, and Lianne’s impressive vocal control and effortless vibrato serve the song perfectly. I love the feeling of discovery that comes with hearing someone who seems to be fairly new, but who is so clearly bound for success. It’s like taking a different route to work or finding out you actually do like scallops (I thought I didn’t like the consistency) — the world feels new, if only for a short time. Immediately after watching, I went digging around YouTube, SoundCloud and iTunes for more, scarcity acting as both an obstacle and a thrill, finding a few videos on her website and an outstanding cover of the Everything Everything song “Final Form.” Check it out below, and her Black Cab Session above, and I dare you not to fall in love with her. Go on, try.

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