Been a long time, we shouldn’t have left you, without some dope content to feed on… But we’re back and better than ever. We all need a break, so we decided to get out of gloomy London to sunnier sites. (But we’ve had your backs on social media as we always plan to, so make sure you’re following us on Facebook and Twitter).
Getting to this week’s news, we’re super hype about the artists behind the albums and EPs we’re discussing this week. With releases from Nao and PJ, we’re glad to see women leading the way this week on the release front. And in case you were somehow lost in the frenzy that was #FrankOceanWatch last week, we’ve got all the dets you need on the waiting game. Check it all below.
1. Nao’s ‘For All We Know’ (REVIEW)
For anyone familiar with the UK R&B scene, Nao is now a household name. With one of her earliest singles, So Good, clocking over 1m listens on Soundcloud and earning Zane Lowe’s Hottest Record title, sets at major festivals, including the coveted Glastonbury festival, it is hard to believe Nao only released her debut album just over a week ago. It’s been a bit of a wait, but this was an album worth waiting for.
For All We Know is a beautifully elegant aggregation of Nao’s journey to the artist she is and is still becoming. In her teenage days growing up in South London, Nao was a grime MC by the name ‘Jess Z. J’. Later on, she studied a vocal jazz degree at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama – one of the UK’s most prestigious performing arts schools. In her home life, she was steeped in the gospel music her mother loved to listen to and as a ’90s-bred teen, she is a product of the sound and swag of the original R&B princesses, Aaliyah, Janet Jackson and TLC.
All of this combined with the fact that her sound has crystallised in the age of EDM and other forms of electronic music having a defining effect on music, create the unique sonics of For All We Know. Electronic beats form the base throughout the album, overlayed by Nao’s distinct, digitally-tinged voice. She shows off her vocal range and acrobatic skills at several points, gliding effortlessly between soprano and low alto notes. The ’90s R&B, funk and gospel fusion sound that she’s crafted for herself is the album’s secret weapon. For All We Know is infectiously upbeat and catchy, but sonically rich, in a way hardly heard of on the radio these days. From the first to last notes, it pulls you in and takes you on a fun upbeat ride – a way in which Nao’s ‘alternative R&B’ sound is different from the trippy, floaty and almost lazed sound that is often associated with that strand of the genre. Wrapped around all this is her effortlessly cool vibe that may be associated with her MC ‘roots’.
Lyrically, For All We Know, covers the familiar topics of love, relationships and betrayal. But Nao’s coverage of these topics feels very unemotional and gives away little. There isn’t that feeling that you are getting a glimpse into anything personal, probably due to the way the upbeat beats are juxtaposed with the lyrics and the buttery, unemotional vocal delivery. It seems Nao makes music to deliver a fun, cool, ‘vibesy’ listening experience, as opposed to a deep, reflective one. But that’s no criticism – she’s found her lane and is making great music in that lane. As a matter of fact, we find it hard to think of an artist doing similar. Nao manages to make musical magic creating R&B music that quintessentially embodies ’90s R&B, but is beautifully digitalised with a range of genre influences baked in to create one of the year’s richest sonic experiences. For All We Know is an incredibly strong debut for which Nao has already earned some impressive accolades – Apple Music’s Artist of the Week and spots on the Top 20 charts. Haven’t been able to stop playing it since our first listen. It’s definitely one to give a full listen, but if you’re looking to get a quick taste of what it’s like, listen to ‘We Don’t Give A’, ‘Fool To Love’, ‘Bad Blood’, ‘In The Morning’, ‘Feels Like (Perfume)’, all of which were featured in our #NewSongOfTheDay series over the past week. Enjoy below – this is a five star album.