Nao – February 15
I was going to start this review off with “FKA twigs’ newest EP…” except Nao’s voice is more reminiscent of AlunaGeorge’s Aluna Francis, and the sound is more straight-forward than FKA twigs’ darkness (excepting “Apple Cherry”‘s hook; the delivery and the sonics behind it all scream FKA twigs). As always the case with stuff like this, results are mildly entertaining and not at all in-line with the acclaim: the bass-line of “Inhale Exhale”, the groove of “Golden”, the hook of “Zillionaire” despite the cheese (“We’d be richer than a millionaire! Azillionaire!“; well, shiiiit) and despite the fact that oddball percussive sound was just thrown in to try to make the second-most standard song here slightly more interesting.
Nao – For All We Know
I haven’t been impressed by the mass import of female R&B artists over wonky (but not too wonky) backdrops from the UK. The effect is supposed to combine sweeter vocals with, call them industrial soundscapes, but most of the time, it often feels like it’s a pose. The darkness is too clean and the movement’s too lurchy (the spacing of the hook on “Girlfriend” leaves something to be desired). Nao’s less insufferable because she’s not so concerned with shoving sexual overtones down your throat, because she can sing a hook every now and then (i.e. “Do You Want Me”) and because her producers can add some nice color. Examples: the distorted sample adding an additional hook on “Fool to Love”; the faraway piano plinks on “Blue Wine”; the staccato anger in “Trophy” (“If you think that I’m a trophy/ You’d better change your mind”) while A.K. Paul’s distorted guitars and hiccupped vocal intrusion distinguishes the song from the rest of the album. And while I wasn’t nearly won over by the loud howl of “Bad Blood,” I confess awe when Nao does the vocal acrobatics at the end of the bridge, “Don’t tell me I’m coo-coo…” But the songwriting can’t sustain interest over the album’s 14 tracks (plus 4 interludes), as opposed to a more succinct 10-12, even though she nabs two highlights that were available on her previous EPs (“Adore You,” which features some pointillist synths in the choruses from So Good, and “Inhale Exhale” which features her harmonizing with the bass-line from February 15). As it stands, it’s a moderate success following her appearance on Disclosure’s Caracal and Samsung commercials.