Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Lianne La Havas – Forget

So we might’ve gone a little bit soft…


Iain Mew: Lianne La Havas’ first EP, with a few pretty acoustic songs and one amazing cover of Everything Everything’s prog ballad “Final Form”, didn’t really hint at the direction shown here. Which is gorgeous, playful pop in the vein of Jem or The Bird and the Bee, with trip-hop beats adorned with the gentlest of funk and layers of voices. “Forget” is slightly less twee and Lianne is a great singer in a different way than either of those, but it’s filled with the same kind of ticklish joy, backing vocals all slotting perfectly into place and the song sounding as warm and carefree as the life she’s hoping for once she can get past her relationship troubles.

Brad Shoup: Full disclosure: my [7] includes a major boost for a sustained and intentional mishearing of “forget” as “fuck yeah”.

Jer Fairall: In which it is revealed that Feist + some cool strangled funk guitars would still, unfortunately, = yawn.

Edward Okulicz: “Forget” is a really great song, interestingly arranged and catchy, no doubt, but it’s the vocal performance that’s the knock-out. Even as jittery as the music sounds, every single syllable out of La Havas’ mouth has been sharply tuned to thrill and taunt. She doesn’t just sing the words, she throws them like a champion darts player, pausing ever so slightly, carefully putting the emphasis on this word or that to hit the emotional target. When she howls the title word, I’m transfixed even as I’m being told off.

Alfred Soto: This jittery amalgam of tuneYARDS, Gang of Four, and Janelle Monae boasts a considerable resourcefulness: jittery post-punk rhythm guitar and multitracked harmonies especially. It will unfold secrets with replay, including whether she’s really saying “FUCK YEAH!” in the chorus.

Katherine St Asaph: This is what you get when you purée a liberal-arts college freshman’s iTunes library. And then what you forget.

Jonathan Bogart: Somehow the exact midpoint of Young Marble Giants, Sonic Youth and Alicia Keys was everything I needed right now.

Michaela Drapes: Immediate and unaffected, bold yet understated, with elegant shifts in tone and mood and dynamic — I’m quite simply bowled over. I’m a little suprised to be feeling a slight shift toward jazz in some pop corners lately; I gave $2 to a dude busking syncopated, Smiths-inflected cello ballads on the L train platform today. Have you felt it, too?

Zach Lyon: Oh, so much bite in her vox it has to be real. “Waste all your time writing love songs/but you don’t love me” becomes a knife of an opener, and even the corny forced analogy bits like “I am a one-man band” leave minor wounds. I wish the last minute weren’t so expendable, though; it should be wrong to want a 3 and a half minute song to be shorter.

W.B. Swygart: There need to be more songs where singer-songwriter significant others are explicitly told to fuck off, and they all need to be this good. Yes, one could argue it needs a bit more oomph, that it’s too happy to coast rather than follow through on that enticingly scraggy intro; also, La Havas is guilty of more than the occasional bit of shitty poetry herself (“if you heed my sound advice/There is no need to tell you twice” is an infuriatingly clunky blow-off). However: 1) my favourite bit of telly in the past year is this; 2) she’s so cold, so awesomely, brilliantly cold, engineering everything to make it absolutely clear that her object is an irredeemable waste of oxygen. She sounds like she butchers steers for fun. Delicately arranged dinks and boops hang off her howling of the title, and it works wonders — I’ve had to listen to most of this week’s bunch two or three times to remember how they go (“Bad Girls” shouldn’t be such hard work, but somehow it is), but this burrowed right in first time. Heck, if Honkin’ Mikey K has anything like this in his locker, then maybe — just maybe — 2012’s gonna be alright.

John Seroff: “Forget” takes nervous tension and remakes it into pleasure.  There’s something virtually “Cannonball” about it, a grungy fuzz of current that is belied by La Havas’ Monae-meets-Ambrosius precision tone. It’s a perfectly executed tightrope walk that couldn’t be catchier. I’m comfortable calling this the best song we’ve yet heard on the 2012 Jukebox.

10 Responses to “Lianne La Havas – Forget”

  1. CONFIDENTIAL TO SOTO: fuck yeah

  2. This is about one billion times better and more affecting than tuneYARDS or anything Janelle Monae’s done, I must say.

  3. Yeah, this is totally in the tuneYARDS-Monae-Saint Vincent corner of music that I can pick no fights with, but that my brain can’t latch onto either.

  4. I am confused. This is just mediocre and forgettable no matter how often you listen to it. At least Tune-Yards and Janelle Monae had songs that assert themselves.

  5. Your mileage may vary, I guess. Then again, I think what we’re looking at here is the difference between something on 4ad (Merrill Garbus is the standard bearer of the new aesthetic over there, really) and a quirky major (Janelle Monae on Bad Boy/Atlantic) — and something on a UK indie with a very forward-looking, fast-moving agenda (Rough Trade).

    Obviously, all these young women are generally untested overall, and it will be interesting to see how their talents develop over time, but overall, I’m much more interested in what La Havas from the get-go than I was by Garbus and Monae. I’d hardly call this mediocre.

    Also, I forgot to drop some Arthur Russell framing in here too. I’m definitely feeling his influence as well. I think people were right on in pointing out the post-colonial pop colliding with post-punk colliding with jazz, though. There’s a lot going on here that merits closer investigation.

  6. Do we have enough over-7s to start a running sidebar list yet for 2012?

  7. Katherine and Jer on point.

  8. We’ve got four so far, I think: Cher/Astro, Lianne, T-ara and Jess Mills. JME lands straightaway on 7.

  9. Five with M.I.A. Hell, there may be more, I’m still updating my spreadsheet…

  10. Fun: Lianne has a perfectly fine song with Willy Mason, which is BONKERS if you’re like me and you thought Willy Mason ceased to exist after tenth grade when you listened to “Oxygen” every single day for a year. His voice is the same and everything!