Laura Mvula – The Dreaming Room Review

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Being compared to the likes of Nina Simone together with being classed as “the next Adele”, amongst several award nominations and triumphs, Laura Mvula’s successes came bounding like a peppy retriever playing fetch. And despite an apparent reminiscence of Back to Black in her debut Sing to the Moon, she parades a distinctive retro/pop/soul fusion unlike your typical BRIT nominee. This powerful exclusivity is once again explored in the glistening debut’s successor, A Dreaming Room.
The album has a great degree of vibrancy that can either be comforting or disconcerting. The fluorescent toe-tapper Phenomenal Woman feels like a friendly hug, with up-beat and emboldening lyrics paired with cheery vocals. With such a seventies feel, you can imagine the backing singers jiving behind their mics to this on a past episode of Top of the Pops, and is a masterful finish to the album. Rival this to Bread: the merging of an off-centre drum machine and an odd rattling hook, alongside Mvula’s signature echoic harmonies acting as a weak attempt to gloss over the weirdness. These juxtapositions come to a dramatic climax in Kiss My Feet; the listeners are jerked to and from a Disney-like waltz and overpowering electronica. Lyrically the song is incoherent too – the opening lines state Mvula feels “lost and found at the same damn time” – so the whole track creates a swirling sense of confusion, for both the artist and the listener; I can’t decide yet whether its messy or pure genius. The longest track – Show Me Love – is the greatest advertisement of the London Symphony Orchestra’s impact on the album (apart from the pointless 46-second addition of Renaissance Moon). To some extent, the undulating flow of the harmonic strings steal the limelight from Mvula during this number, as she repeatedly sings the same words over and over again, almost as if it has been improvised. The tracklist is ultimately a blend of vitalising surges of pop and a hymn-like notions, extended by the LSO’s tender compositions.
A Dreaming Room’s strongest asset is how beautifully personal it is. The track Nan is not a song at all, but a phone conversation between Mvula and her grandmother. This addition is especially touching – it’s impossible not to wear a smile whilst listening to it. The song People is sung with intense passion, as she and Wretch-32 explicitly discuss the treatment of black people. Not only does this song demonstrate how much of an influential figure Mvula is, but also establishes how she is both modern and unique. It’s fairly common nowadays to include a rap section in the final verse of a track, but instead of recycled lyrics bellowing over a recycled beat, the rap portion in People is layered with distorted swells of Mvula’s soft harmonies brawling with the force of Wretch-32’s from-the-heart lyricism. It’s both a fantastic song and a hugely efficacious symbol, as two vastly different musical powerhouses join to push for change.
Weird but in the best of ways, Laura Mvula has produced an album that certainly lives up to expectations. Each track is a wonderful display of vocals that deserve to be flaunted at any given opportunity, and, although some tracks are less structurally successful than others, it’s clear that Mvula has put her heart and soul into every track, and for that, she can be forgiven for the long three- year hiatus.
Laura Mvula – A Dreaming Room: 7/10

Eleanor Chivers

Single Review – Laura Mvula – Phenomenal Woman

Despite the many inspirational female artists on the scene at the moment, few have released a more irresistibly funky and galvanising track than Laura Mvula’s Phenomenal Woman. Inspired by none other than the iconic Maya Angelou, not only is this dance-inviting track filled to the brim with infectious seventies enthused hooks and a beguiling vocal arrangement, it is fuelled by an empowering drive, aimed to “raise up women.” Sadly, it has been outshone by Beyoncè’s highly anticipated latest single Freedom, promoting a similar message. But, if I may be so bold, this unconventional pop anthem is all that bit better. Don’t get me wrong, Beyoncè has just confirmed a million times over that she deserves her title of a feminist and black emblem, yet Mvula’s effortless soul and fire, plus the more upbeat feel, makes this tune especially revitalising. It just goes to show that, when aligned with the equally charismatic debut album Sing to the Moon, Laura Mvula is a pretty phenomenal woman herself.

Eleanor Chivers

Mercury Prize 2013 – An Evaluation

It’s pretty difficult to say as always who will be the winner of the 2013 Mercury Prize and I’m not about to make any definitive predictions about it either. However, personally I’d be pretty happy to see Savages win the prize this time around. They may not be the popular or the obvious choice but they made a very bold and prominent statement both musically and lyrically and stylistically with Silence Yourself which I thoroughly enjoyed when I looked at it earlier in the year. I find it hard to see Rudimental winning it while Disclosure and Jon Hopkins are in the contest too. Between the three, the latter two are far more imaginative and creative while Rudimental fall more into basic song structures and vocals that do work but look primitive next to Disclosure and Hopkins. The same can be said when comparing Jake Bugg and Arctic Monkeys. Jakes debut was fantastic but The Monkeys are at the peak of their career and have produced an album in AM that has been refined at it’s core and much more considered in musical structure and textures, even if they may be a populist vote. But they have won it before of course so that may work against them. If Jake is a folk musician then Laura Marling would also be a step ahead for the basic reasons of being more knowledgeable and experienced and producing more thought provoking work with Once I Was An Eagle.  James Blake has produced such a soulful album with a raw atmospheric quality to it but Laura Mvula has created a much more novel and unusual album in comparison to him and she is being hailed as a possible favourite. Using this train of thought then Villages would also be pushed back. Foals have done well with Holy Fire to create an interesting and developed sound while keeping it catchy and rhythmic too. They can certainly by-pass some nominees without a problem. Then that just leaves Bowie. Though his shock comeback was a massive and very welcome surprise, it doesn’t hold up against McCartney’s efforts and therefore shouldn’t do so against most of the nominees. Nothing Bowie does is ever of a poor standard but it does seem that he has been placed there on the circumstances of his album rather than its content.