Listen to Laura Mvula's terrific full-length debut, Sing to the Moon, and you'll hear soulful pop music in Technicolor. The U.K. singer's sonic ambition is boundless: Her intricately layered songs straddle genres, locations and eras in ways that sound entirely original.
Squeezing that sound behind Bob Boilen's desk is no tiny task, as she acknowledges partway through this three-song set in the NPR Music offices. Mvula faces the challenge by seizing an opportunity to showcase her most intimate material; with the help of a small string section, she forgoes some of her flashier songs ("Like the Morning Dew," "Green Garden") in favor of Sing to the Moon's most brooding ballads.
The result shines a spotlight squarely on Mvula's lovely voice and elegant songwriting — both of which are sturdy enough to withstand being stripped of accoutrements. Soak up this performance, then treat yourself to Sing to the Moon if you haven't already. It's one of the best debut albums in a year full of great ones.
- "Father, Father"
Producer: Bob Boilen; Editor: Gabriella Garcia-Pardo; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; Videographers: Denise DeBelius, Gabriella Garcia-Pardo, Marie McGrory; photo by Marie McGrory/NPR