Lianne La Havas, "Is Your Love Big Enough?" (Warner Bros. Records)
"You broke me, and taught me to truly hate myself," Lianne La Havas sings on the airy song "Lost & Found." "Unfold me, and teach me how to be like somebody else."
It's a particularly dark and heavy hook, leaving the listener to wonder what kind of relationship the singer had been in. But La Havas, the 22-year-old London newcomer, takes the song to even greater heights thanks her husky vocals, which makes "Lost & Found" not just amazing, but earth-shattering.
And there are more stunning songs like it on her debut album, "Is Your Love Big Enough?"
The piano tune "Gone" is another highlight, where La Havas is over love, singing lyrics like: "I heard enough fairy tales back in my youth, so just stop biting your nails and take the painful truth, you just look ridiculous in disguise, yes I've found you out, this is my last goodbye."
On the album opener "Don't Wake Me Up," with its layered vocals, La Havas sounds like a mad woman singing about her "only love" and "only counterpart." Then there's the line: "They say some things are better left unsaid, but I'd take my life to stay in your bed."
Lyrics like that stand out throughout her outstanding debut, finding their way into songs that blend elements of pop, soul and folk. La Havas is singing about the many facets of love: On most songs she's cooing about lost love, sounding scorned, or ready to move on. But on others she's happy, like the pleasant "Au Cinema" and "Age," a tune about falling for a man "old enough to be my father."
La Havas wrote or co-wrote all of the songs with the exception of the Scott Matthews cover "Elusive." Matt Hales, the English singer-songwriter who performs his own songs under the alias Aqualung, co-wrote eight of the 12 tracks and produced the entire album.
What they have crafted is not just one of the year's best debuts, but one of the year's best albums.
Check this out: Willy Mason, the American singer-songwriter who is the only guest on the album, finds his deep, haunting vocals blending nicely with La Havas' tone on the cool "No Room for Doubt."