Laura Mvula Demolishes the Wall of Sound

October 13, 2013

I awoke in the middle of the night from a dream, with Laura Mvula’s song That’s Alright resounding in my mind as the vision’s musical score.  As my dreams are often MOS, (Mit Out Sound), this was literally eye opening!

My bride heard about Laura Mvula on NPR, and we sat down one night recently and listened to her album, Sing to the Moon.  It is remarkable, and wonderful.


The lyrics are piquant, and ebullient, sometimes pungent.

The arrangements harken to the best of blues and jazz, with the threat of dissonance lurking in the next measure.  Most often, the melody and harmonies only touch down lightly on a chord that, while it refuses to resolve, it pulls you forward into a new line of invention.  Expect hairpin key changes, tempo downshifts an accelerations, and turbocharged anthemic brass, chorus, and string break-outs that might make you get up and dance.

Mvula’s work has the sweet freshness that Joan Armatrading’s did when she first gained recognition; and Tracy Chapman, too.  Yet Sing to the Moon is not an album of laments and dirges for mistakes and calamity.  It is a mellow, sometimes fierce paean to the vitality of and power of a life fully lived through every moment.

I regret that the Amazon sample of That’s Alright begins in medias res, missing out on a crackling percussion intro that boils with the heat of Simon and Garfunkel’s Cecilia.  Start with the Youtube version here, try not to think of Grace Jones, and enjoy.

The way I see it, Laura Mvula breaks down the wall of sound with a sledgehammer, a Wrecking Crew unto herself, and then invites you to rebuild it with her.  So?  On your feet!