[5] Laura Mvula, ‘Is There Anybody Out There?’


Laura Mvula’s debut album is extraordinary, but so are the reactions to it. I suspect those deriding her as “new boring” etc haven’t actually listened to the thing – or took the relatively safe jazz stylings of upfront single ‘Green Garden’ to be typical of the whole – because I can’t fathom how you couldn’t come away from Sing To The Moon without your life in some way enhanced. It’s hard to pinpoint what Mvula is, and perhaps that’s led critics towards the easy way out. What she does is take everything she might be – classically trained composer, jazz musician, soul belter, psych poet, pop stylist, gospel singer – and creates something, someone new, who might have touches of Nina Simone or Minnie Riperton about her but equally seems to have accepted a few stone tablets from Brian Wilson. So, yeah, new with old components.

“This is Laura Mvula,” I say. “I know,” replies Junior who likes the chorus that turns out to be a kind of middle eight. Junior 2 nods, Junior 3 sings “Is there anybody out there?” over and over as if she’s trying to help Mvula find someone who understands. In turns stately and ecstatic, this is one of the year’s heart-stopping tunes.

[14] PM Dawn, ‘A Watcher’s Point Of View (Don’t Cha Think)’

PM Dawn

In the pub last night, I launched a robust Hoegaarden-driven defence of PM Dawn’s ‘Set Adrift On Memory Bliss’, thinking it was coming up next and determined to hold my ground. Now I see I got the wrong song, I withdraw my comments. This was always much better. Junior thought it was ace, running through her full repertoire of shakes, rocks and bounces.

De La Soul crossed with The Beach Boys, that’s what they said, near enough. Prince Be was the hip hop Brian Wilson. He certainly carried the ballast.

Pretty, harmony-drenched raps, wordy titles and flaky lyrics only sustained them so long. We didn’t hear much from them after ’91, although I understand that they recently won some American, dignity-shedding revival contest. Maybe there’ll be a new PM Dawn dawn.

The Crystals, ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’

It’s the three-minute warning, so we’ll finish off the Christmas songs with this. Plus we needed another from the superlative Phil Spector album, in honour of the big-haired nutter (that case is ongoing, isn’t it?). Speaking of nutters, his old rival Brian Wilson has just released a Christmas album himself. It’s getting panned. I did buy the recent single unheard, and it’s useless.

This is a sinister record, right? Santa’s painted as this all-seeing disciplinarian, there are threatening chord sequences – you’re not even allowed to cry, for pity’s sake. Again, it’s lucky that Junior doesn’t understand (I think), or she’d be keeping a wary eye on that fireplace. 

The tune and production are immense, but let’s not allow that to disguise the message. You’d better have a long, hard look at yourselves over the next couple of days. You may still have time to turn it around.