Laura Mvula distills soul, jazz, pop, and choral music into a fresh, original sound on her debut Sing To The Moon. The 26-year-old singer/songwriter from the UK packs this album full of empowering lyrics, timeless sounds, and wonderful vocal arrangements. It is one of the year's best.
Laura Mvula has experience as a choir director and it informs her music. She arranges and layers her vocals in ways that would normally be used with a choir. The first 30 seconds of "Like The Morning Dew" is the audio equivalent of a sunrise waking you up. While the main vocal takes center stage, it doesn't completely overshadow the other vocals in the background. When the music starts, it darts in and around the vocals and complements them perfectly. The entire sequence is jaw-dropping and it only gets better when you listen to it on headphones.
In addition to the great vocal arrangements, the music itself is wonderful. There is a big, retro feel to the album as many tracks feature horns and strings. However, there are moments where things are dialed back to great effect. "She" builds itself up gradually. The first half of the song is nearly all vocals. By the time the drums and bass have kicked in, the song is almost over. "Father, Father," an emotional highpoint, is relatively stripped down with only piano and percussion accompanying the vocals.
Lyrically, the songs on Sing To The Moon are catchy and full of interesting messages. "That's Alright" is an anthem for anyone who hasn't felt attractive to someone else. The lyrics are refreshingly straightforward:
"I will never be what you want
And that's alright
'Cause my skin's not light
And my body's not tight."
The lyrics of the aforementioned "Father, Father" are striking in their power and simplicity, especially when they're repeated towards the end of the song: "Father, father / Why you let me go / Father please / Don't let me go."
There are many artists inspired by classic music but few really reinterpret it in fresh ways. This is exactly what Laura Mvula does on Sing To The Moon. It is what makes it a fantastic debut album and Mvula an artist to watch. If she continues to make more albums like this over her career, she will become an inspiration herself.