Mvula poses Microsoft Word as big of a problem as Proust does to an unseasoned literature student. It’s Proost (I learnt the hard way with kids kicking copies of In Search of Lost Time in my face). Is it Mm-voola? Mavoola? Regardless, let’s discuss her mercury prize-nominated debut Sing to the Moon.
The album is good. It has a lot of heart, which I’m learning is especially important as I grow more discernible in my early twenties (I think I’m growing more discernible). Mvula doesn’t seem concerned with warping her lyrics into abstractions we have to decrypt; I like this. Lyrically, she favours grand. Absolutely fine when you have a voice like she does.
There are a few points in which the particular way a word is sung summons literal goosebumps. In She Mvula sings “10 steps back and 1 step forward” and the “forward” is all elongated and delicious. Similarly, the high notes Mvula hits in Can’t Live With The World – “I’ll stay here and hold you ‘til morning” – is like a vocal hug that makes the world a little less scary.
Permeating the record are a series of compositional contrasts, Mvula switching at ease from an almost-abrasive quality to lush gentleness, each switch vibrantly produced and marked by an attentive simplicity. Nearing a minute into Is There Anybody Out There? “fear” is cut off quite abruptly before swiftly moving into a more busy composition. The songs are like self-contained versions of the best mix you’ve ever made (or received), full of peaks and troughs which make for an ever-intriguing repeated listening.
Other instruments do rise to prevalence on the record (though an acapella edition of this album would be nuts) and are used to great effect. Specifically, the strings that conjure a dreamlike, entrancing feel throughout, the xylophonic buzz of Green Garden, piano on Father, Father, the cacophony of drums on I Don’t Know What The Weather Will Be and the thumping brass on Flying Without You.
If you hate layers (a bizarre and irrational hate to have) I wouldn’t tune in. Why? There are more layers here than something which would usually be held in high esteem for the amount of layers it has. Nailed that analogy. Puff pastry, a really cold person, the Christopher Nolan film Inception. You get it. Please listen to the album in the comfort of headphones or an abundance of speakers otherwise you won’t be able to enjoy the songs as much as you could.
However, as far as the Mercury Prize is concerned I don’t think she’ll win. That’s not to say she’s a token nominee amongst the eleven other works. Sing To The Moon certainly represents an originality which I like and the Mercury Prize seeks to highlight. Sadly, it has come out at a time when it is competing with Foals’ new one and Jake Bugg (okay I can’t do this – I joke – and incidentally Master Bugg is completely a token nomination; youth in music and all that jazz).
What Mvula has in Sing to the Moon is a strong debut and something I hope she builds on. I will happily re-listen to it, recommend it and I’m excited for album #2 whenever that drops; Outside of giving her the less prestigious and more common award of Fox’s Favourite (I’m trying my hardest to get it off the ground but no one in the biz cares) this is all I can do. Sorry Laura, I could give you the Mercury Prize but it would be an unofficial and hollow gesture.
For music fans with a soul. [So all of you x]