Classically trained in her native Birmingham, the 26-year-old teacher-turned-chanteuse released her first EP in November and follows with this suite of a dozen self-penned songs.
Opener Like The Morning Dew pitches hazy, Fleet Foxes-style vocal harmonies into an otherwise straight-forward example of what used to be called chamber pop. Green Garden and That's Alright invoke the spirit of Janelle Monae's high-stepping Afro-tronica and elsewhere the nimble jazz phrasings, shards of psychedelia and complex, pattering percussion show just how compositionally sophisticated Mvula's songwriting is. The lyrics aren't half bad, either.
Her voice doesn't have the imperiousness of Nina Simone's or the croaky pain of Karen Dalton's but it's hard not to be reminded of both. It's particularly evident on Can't Live With The World, with its harp trills, backing vocals and subtle horn fills, and on the sparser Is There Anybody Out There? That said, there is nothing retro about Laura Mvula or this stunning debut: both are thoroughly modern. I expect a Mercury Prize nomination for this one.