If there's one song on 'Blood', the second album from Lianne La Havas, that defines the extremes of her career transition it's Never Get Enough. What begins as a lilting acoustic guitar track of sunny harmonies, gentle percussion and softly hushed vocals suddenly lurches into a biting chorus of electric guitar, stomping drums and processed vocals.
La Havas became a perhaps unlikely friend of Prince in 2014 when he played a gig in her living room - the stuff of dreams. She then featured heavily on his album 'Art Official Age' and it's clear that his influence has rubbed off. 'Blood' is a grander affair than quiet debut 'Is Your Love Big Enough', with expanded instrumentation, funkier rhythms and a grittier tone.
The likes of Unstoppable, What You Don't Do, Tokyo, Midnight and Never Get Enough all adhere to this new sound. The former in particular opens the album in a glorious flourish: all laidback funk beats and shimmering harmonies that are pure sunshine. What You Don't Do makes for obvious single material with its spiky rhythms, whilst Tokyo and Midnight both float along on funk grooves.
There's another reason for the change in sound though: as the title suggests, La Havas has spent time rediscovering her Greek and Jamaican roots. It's a concept album then, with the autobiographical Green & Gold at its heart ("dreaming of the green and gold, just like the ancient stone"). And whilst the elongated vibrato and breathy tone of her voice may seem lightweight, the concept proves there is personal depth to the lyrics, whilst the sound is a concoction of jazz, funk, soul, bossa and reggae. Final track Good Enough is especially poignant.
Indeed it's La Havas' vocal that remains the main draw of her music, but now it takes on a gutsy character alongside the usual lithe melisma. Production, meanwhile, comes courtesy of the likes of Stephen McGregor, Paul Epworth and Mark Batson, providing a smooth sheen of polish throughout - sumptuous and warm.
'Blood' is perhaps too polished though. Tracks like Never Get Enough hint at an edgier singer trying to burst through, but too often the album dips into easy listening. There's a lack of nagging hooks here, resulting in an album that's a little too Radio 2 and (dare I say it?) forgettable. 'Blood' is often beautiful and beguiling, but it's also not the essential listen it could be.
* Green & Gold
* Never Get Enough
Listen: 'Blood' is available now.