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.