Review roundup: Lianne La Havas' left-leaning pop, the Psychedelic Furs' melancholy, Roy Ayers returns
A (quick) critical rundown on three recent albums.
Occasionally, Entertainment Weekly publishes short reviews on some of the best records of the month. Today's edition tackles the latest from Lianne La Havas, Psychedelic Furs, and Roy Ayers (with Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad).
Lianne La Havas – Lianne La Havas
On her first two albums, Lianne La Havas married powerful balladry with a picturesque pen game. Her latest release — simply, Lianne La Havas — signals a shift away from the acoustic theatrics of 2012's Is Your Love Big Enough and 2015’s Blood into pared-down poetic complexity with a mix of left leaning pop and high-voltage electric blues.
Her distinct, expansive range is apparent from the start here, with the booming opener “Bittersweet.” Over the spiraling riffs of “Green Papaya” she pleads with her partner to love her somethin’ fierce, while the sincerity of the propulsive "Can’t Fight” sees La Havas testifying to her inability to leave love alone. Fans may be a bit disappointed at the London vocalist-guitarist’s reserved lyricism compared to Blood but the femme gem “Sour Flower” and Radiohead cover “Weird Fishes” should be more than enough to compensate. – Tirhakah Love B+
Made of Rain – Psychedelic Furs
True goths never really die; they just take long, elegant naps. Some 35-plus years after the Psychedelic Furs first burst into John Hughes-ian legend with batcave anthems like “Pretty in Pink” and “Love My Way” — and nearly 30 since their last proper studio album, 1991’s World Outside — the arbiters of art-punk pageantry return with Made of Rain (out July 31). “I am the boy that invented rock ’n’ roll,” frontman Richard Butler intones on the album’s shimmering, expansive opener, his arch baritone still undiminished at 64. And so he goes, spinning tales of glitter hips and insect hearts, frozen tides and starless dark. “You’ll Be Mine” builds a baroque mood from chiming guitars and vaguely Middle Eastern flourishes; the slow-blooming lament “This’ll Never Be Like Love” could be an indictment of a cold, lonely scenester or a hard look in the mirror. “Don’t Believe” takes a brief serrated dip into post-punk, while “Come All Ye Faithful” swerves toward something more like industrial cabaret, sinuous horns fluttering atop wildly distorted guitars and rasping percussion. “We keep coming back, we keep coming back/Wind up here again,” Butler croons on the pensive penultimate ballad, “Turn Your Back on Me.” Rain’s black-velvet melancholy makes it easy to pretend they never left. B+ –Leah Greenblatt
Roy Ayers JID 002 – Roy Ayers, Adrian Younge, Ali Shaheed Muhammad
Jazz hasn’t had a consistent mainstream profile in decades. This supertrio aim to change that with a cheekily titled, smooth-as-silk set of songs about love, unity, and the roots of American music. “Synchronize Vibration” takes a page from project guest star Roy Ayers’ hit “Everybody Loves the Sunshine.” The 5th Dimension harmonies abound on “Soulful & Unique.” Meanwhile, the free jazz-inspired “African Sounds” asks black artists to use their music to “rebound against the hate.” It’s a strong message but the album — the second from Ayers and Muhammad's Jazz Is Dead label — feels too short to be a definitive statement. B– —Alex Suskind