“I can only be who I am,” sings Laura Mvula on the opening of her new album The Dreaming Room. In the context of this album’s genesis, that’s quite a refreshing thing to hear. Mvula has dealt with divorce, with anxiety, hell a whole fuck-tonne of problems that came her way following her debut.
It’s even more present a statement in light of the fact that, let’s face it, Sing To The Moon still feels like a kowtowed bit of industry-fellatio. It ticked the Jools Holland boxes but we struggle to remember a single song from it. So that this album has already delivered two kaleidoscopic funk-soul jams – Overcome with Nile Rodgers and Phenomenal Woman – feels like a sure sign that Mvula ‘being who she is’ can only be a damn blessing.
Even when she addresses her pain, she does so with gauzy wonder. “Forgive me, I’ve been a long way from my mind than I have before,” she says on Lucky Man, on a sort of cloistered gospel-blues jam that still proffers her as an incredibly powerful voice. The sort of voice that you’d bow down to, the sort of voice you’d hail at a political rally. The sort of voice missing from a soul landscape.
It’s hard to deny that Mvula has created something of a masterpiece here. Kiss My Feet talks about a noose to the disturbing sounds of a child’s music box, People feels like a lost inner-city overture that’s no less powerful than Bey’s Freedom. “How glorious this light in us, we are a wonder,” a gentle protest that celebrates with quiet fire, and a sentence that feels searingly relevant in light of the world’s tragedies.
If there’s a slight distraction it’s the cloying, childlike ways of Show Me Love and Angel, but ultimately The Dreaming Room is a collection that bursts with all manner of life. It tackles both the heaviness of her recent past and the hopefulness of her future with remarkable aplomb; if both the dark and sweet dreams of Laura Mvula are made of this then, really, who are we to disagree?