First Listen: Lianne La Havas, 'Is Your Love Big Enough?'

NPR icon by Stephen Thompson
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In a crowded marketplace for young, big-voiced pop singers, it takes nuance and charisma to stand out; blaring pipes aren't enough. A 22-year-old from London, Lianne La Havas possesses a rich, expressive voice — but also, more importantly, a keen understanding of when to dial it back. She can power through big notes, sure, but listen to "Lost & Found" and you'll hear a darkly melancholy heir to Meshell Ndegeocello's masterful, slow-burning Bitter.

That song is just one standout from La Havas' terrific, genre-straddling debut album, Is Your Love Big Enough? Elsewhere, she indulges in everything from Imogen Heap-style Vocoder experiments (the album-opening "Don't Wake Me Up") to alluringly springy jazz-pop ("Au Cinema") to playfully old-fashioned goofs ("Age"), while still crafting a contemporary pop sound that makes do without hyper-modern production spangle. Taken collectively, Is Your Love Big Enough? — out August 7 — is the stuff of Best New Artist Grammys, which so often reward this kind of hyper-accessible entry point into a smart, sophisticated sound world.

La Havas retains her capacity to surprise throughout Is Your Love Big Enough? Whether sharing a winsome duet with Willy Mason in "No Room for Doubt" — they're an ingenious vocal pairing — or repurposing Scott Matthews' 2007 folk-pop gem "Elusive," she sings and swings with confidence and charm, style and sway.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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