While Leanne La Havas’s previous albums – 2012’s acoustic-led Is Your Love Big Enough? and 2015’s neo-soul dabbling Blood – had their moments, they never quite reflected the spirit of her captivating live performances. On this delayed third album, she has managed to harness that purity across 11 songs that purposefully bloom. Where previously the production sometimes intruded, here the Londoner’s multilayered voice is pushed front and centre, riding the lapping waves of the excellent Bittersweet, about long distance breakups (“I’m too far away, don’t know what to tell you babe” she sighs), before fraying around the edges on the tender Paper Thin.
There’s a loose, occasionally meandering feel to the songs too, with the near seven-minute closer Sour Flower blossoming from gently plucked folk to a strident art-rock crescendo that recalls In Rainbows-era Radiohead. The connection isn’t accidental. Having covered that album’s Weird Fishes live for years, it appears here as the album’s centrepiece, La Havas’s swollen voice suddenly bursting out of the fog as she sings “I hit the bottom and escape”. While there are still nods to the polite dinner-party soundtrack feel of her early work – the string-drenched Courage, for example – this is a much bolder statement of intent.