There seems to be an overload of modern/electronic soul recently, and the EP February 15 is the best of the bunch. Whilst most of this genre is preoccupied with trying to be cool, Nao is unashamedly fun.
‘Zillionaire’ was the first track I listened to; it’s quite brilliant. The first thing that grabs me is a distinctly squelchy sound (can synths fart?). My favourite element in the track is the lilting 808 backbeat, without it, the track wouldn’t have half the character. Also, her use of the word ’September’, in the first verse ‘You’re lovely like September’ and second ‘Of you you’re my September’ is very relatable because as a student, as with September comes a whole sea of emotions as school starts and you’re one year closer to independence. Describing a person as a month rather than a common adjective is much cleverer. I think the message of the track is more than just love, it’s refreshingly anti-capitalist. She describes how if she and a potential partner got together they would be richer than the richest person alive; they would have something so precious and priceless, something a zillionaire wouldn’t be able to buy.
‘Apple Cherry’ is my absolute favourite. If FKA Twigs were to cover a Prince song this is how it would sound. My sister and I have danced around, singing it out loud on repeat manys a time. There’s something about that chilled feel that I love. The chorus isn’t a huge deal, it’s laid back which makes it all the more cool. Just before the chorus hits, time seems to slow down as if it’s stuck in slow motion yet the tempo is constant- it helps retain the chilled vibe. Every song in the charts right now has the word ‘love’ in the title or chorus. It’s overused so much that it puts me off a great deal of music, however in tracks like ‘Apple Cherry’ when the artist uses imaginative alternatives for ‘love’ it instantly wins my interest.
‘Inhale Exhale’ is my second favourite simply because it makes me want to dance. It reminds me of car journeys speeding up winding Italian roads as my family and I shuffled our shoulders and heads in unison to the beat; Italian locals looked at us, and wondered what kind of lunatic tourists we were. The structures in each of her tracks are never traditional- another way in which she’s unique and creative. There is no definite chorus or specific middle eight as such, it’s more of a song made up of riffs and ideas put into a slightly unusual structure. As we both come from Hackney, I can definitely say she is the sound of Hackney right now.
‘Golden’ is my least favourite… Although the hook is melodically catchy and in my opinion great, the verse seems a little dull. The wind chimes make me cringe and I find myself skipping this one each time I listen to the EP. Wind chimes remind me of Disney films and cheesy songs- it seems so out of place! It’s great that she’s doing something very different but I find ‘Golden’ is not as good as the other tracks.
‘It’s You’ is the last track on the EP. It has a good sound, and a good song however it’s theme is too generic, too similar to typical love based electronic soul. The only vocal section which stands out for me is the middle eight, when she questions ‘who says what is beautiful?’ leading the listener to wonder whether beauty is universal. The introduction really draws me in, it paints a picture in my head of great stalactites and stalagmites dripping slowly at first, gathering speed until great pools are formed. The fact that that simple sound has the power to create such a vivid, specific image in my mind amazes me.
I can’t wait to listen to her new music; I think Nao will definitely be a huge star of the future.