When Laura Mvula’s Sing to the Moon debuted in 2013 the Birmingham born artist received critical acclaim and attracted a plethora of high profile fans. At the time, her sound was dubbed striking, soulful and angelic. With her sophomore offering it seems little has changed as The Dreaming Room continues what she started with a ten track ensemble effortlessly narrating Mvula’s personal struggles over the last three years.
The Dreaming Room opens with ‘Who I am’, a sad haunting song on introspection which is swiftly juxtaposed by the next track ‘Overcome’, an upbeat optimistic song on resurgence. Orchestration from the London Symphony Orchestra cradles Mvula’s vocals whilst the sound of Nile Rodgers’ guitar hums in the background adding a funky pop feel to the track.
The following three songs, ‘Bread’, ‘Lucky Man’ and ‘Let Me Fall’ offer further insight into Mvula’s personal life as she reflects on faith and her relationship with God. Both seem to have been tumultuous at times but ultimately helped her overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles such as anxiety, mental health issues, and divorce. In ‘Bread’ she softly sings “lay the breadcrumb down so we can find our way” suggesting that she is lost and unsure of which way to turn. However, the breadcrumbs also allude to the fairy-tale Hansel and Gretel thus implying that there may not be a happily ever after for her. Whilst the gospel-blues jam ‘Lucky Man’ and ‘Let Me Fall’ highlight the versatility of Mvula’s voice. Again, choral background vocals and references to religion permeate the two songs as they do throughout the album.
The album begins to build with track six, ‘Kiss My Feet; my personal stand-out favourite before coming to a crescendo in ‘Show Me Love’ which culminates with strings and trumpets, the song is anthemic in its composition as the London Symphony Orchestra takes centre stage towards the end almost overpowering Mvula’s voice. As the brass and strings swell so too does her desperation as the lyric “You showed me love” is bellowed countlessly. For me, ‘Renaissance Moon’ and ‘Angel’ act more as interludes rather than standalone tracks and are quite forgettable. But the tenth track ‘People’ is certainly more memorable and is inspired by Mvula’s childhood. Here, Wretch 32 provides a powerful verse on black identity in the West over rhythmic harmonies.
‘Phenomenal Woman, a disco funk anthem draws the album to close and is inspired by Maya Angelou’s poem of the same name. Mvula wrote the track to praise phenomenal women around the world who are undervalued. She sings “she never listened to no hater, liar / Breaking boundaries and chasing fire” over the uplifting beat and bass line. After listening to album countless times it is also the lyric which best describes Mvula. She is brave, daring and original. The Dreaming Room is a clear reflection of this as her honesty and artistry create an album worth listening to.By Alex Ighalo