Review: Nao x ‘February 15’ EP

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Every once in a while, an offbeat Gen-Y gem surfaces from UK’s EDM scene. [See: Disclosure, AlunaGeorge, Lulu James]. In this case, it’s semi-newcomer Nao: the London-based electro songstress/producer with a knack for splashy beats and gritty funk vocals. Her sophomore EP, February 15, catches more attention than her first–and arrives uniquely at a time when the successful meld of electronic, R&B, and ’80s dream-pop is still an incredibly rare [and cool] thing.

The 5-track album’s opener, “Inhale Exhale”—more accurately an earwax-shakeout—floor-stomps and rattles; its cavernous boom and bass resounds like synth-y R&B housed in a  racquetball court. The cold-shoulder track strikes all minor keys, while Nao’s gravel-funk scats dance in between them. Half smirky kiss-off and half vow of self-preservation, it’s a resolute jam that stews over a love interest’s potential–then commands just the right dismissal: (“It’s not me it’s you/ I’m already lost, Don’t try to reason, by the time I inhale, exhale, I’m back again…”). And–boom–…she’s over it.

There’s a satisfying quirk about Nao, how she floats in and out of romantic concern; when engaged, with a sugary coo and slight dizziness (“Apple Cherry”, “It’s You”)–and when put off, or drawn back to her independence, a revert to her duskier, soulful tone and firm-groundedness (“Golden”). While Nao spends moments in lovey absorption, she doesn’t leave earth; an ever-radiant sense of self shines through any zany beat she touches…[and makes].

“Zillionaire” is a self-explanatory pipe dream—a quirky, percussive one of financial bliss, love, and lots of Benjamins (“With riches from my foolish heart, I’d bury you in treasure”). A full synth-and-snare chorus backs up the singer’s honey-voiced hook. The wide-eyed reverie nestles a cozy spot between the album’s resilient primer and its slow-jam outro. Credit to Nao for the seamless transition.

You can buy February 15 on iTunes hereand on vinyl here.

Check out “Inhale Exhale” below:

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