There's no shortage of conservatory-trained female British soul vocalists (see Adele and Amy Winehouse — and that's just the As), but rest assured you haven't heard an album remotely like Laura Mvula's debut. The 26-year-old Birmingham Conservatoire grad fuses jazzy melodics, pop balladry, orchestral flourishes and pleading gospel to astonishing effect — her immaculately crafted LP sounds like Jill Scott, Feist, Tune-Yards and a 1940s film score simultaneously cranking on a vintage gramophone. Mvula's twin muses are love and nature, and she probes their uncertainty and possibilities via theatrical character studies ("She") and doo-wop-charged rave-ups ("Green Garden"). "Is there anybody out there?" she sings on an especially anguished number. There surely will be now.
From The Archives Issue 1186: July 4, 2013