In a time where the value of the album has a looming question mark hanging over it, one might think it quite brave of East London’s Nao to release an 18-track, mammoth-sized debut album.
But aside from the handful of voice memos scattered throughout the LP, there’s not a single redundant track. Just a scan down the tracklisting tells the story of a relationship gone sour and each song marks a different chapter. Although the ebb and flow of the album is occasionally compromised in favour of chronology in the story, (Shift 'Inhale Exhale' up to the opening track and you’ve got a killer beat to kick things off), it seems like a small price to pay in the grand scheme.
‘For All We Know’ steals, borrows and references an eclectic mix of genres and artists to create a tapestry of modern funk-soul. The hip-hop guitar in ‘Get To Know Ya’ and warping beat in ‘Happy’ are strangely reminiscent of Will Smith’s calling cards, while the dark, electrifying production of ‘In The Morning’ nods to The Weeknd’s ‘Trilogy’.
The GRADES-produced ‘Bad Blood’ hasn’t lost any of its gorgeous charm and still remains the centrepiece of Nao’s discography. But of course, it’s her vocal prowess that threads together the line-up of producer-du-jour types that feature on ‘For All We Know’. That, and the infectious grooves that dominate this album provide endless enjoyment —18 tracks worth, to be precise.
Words: Lisa Henderson
- - -
- - -