For any musical duo, it is essential to establish an almost symbiotic relationship, a musical telepathy that ensures the music becomes not just the work of two disparate individuals but, instead, a seamless meshing of both individuals’ qualities. AlunaGeorge, the duo of singer Aluna Francis and producer George Reid, have certainly established that strong musical relationship.
Body Music, their debut album, is much anticipated. Since being named third in the BBC Sound Of 2013 poll, the duo have been drip feeding new music in anticipation of their debut, while Aluna also provided the vocal to Disclosure’s hit White Noise. Despite the wealth of hype, AlunaGeorge’s success will be down to the quality of their music – and Body Music represents a strong, promising introduction to their defined sound.
AlunaGeorge’s music is rooted in the relationship between Francis’ distinctive vocals and Reid’s tinged beats and sounds. There’s no doubt though that Francis’ vocals provide the real striking quality to the duo’s music. It’s a voice full of gentle charm and disarming soul. She seems capable of wilfully switching between wide-eyed innocence and super confident sashaying poise with ease. It’s also a voice that is idiosyncratically soulful. Amidst the estuary sounds is a keening and plaintive quality that always retains interest. Against the bubbling, busy sound patterns, it makes for an intriguing melting pot.
The album opens with Outlines, a soft focus gentle ballad that immediately highlights Francis’ voice with a lovely echoey outro. The track plays a key role in introducing the strong RnB influence in the duo’s music. In its gentle, soulful yet musically progressive sound it’s reminiscent of a Timbaland produced Aaliyah ballad. It’s this classic sound from RnB’s most musically inventive late ’90s period that informs much of AlunaGeorge’s music.
In an example of just how long the duo’s album has taken to arrive, Body Music features four previous singles among its 13 tracks. Fortunately, these singles are four pieces of undeniable brilliant progressive pop. The first half of the album is front loaded with three of the choicest cuts. You Know You Like It’s brilliance is undimmed by familiarity. It’s swinging 2-step beats provide the perfect backdrop for a sensual, yet subtly aggressive vocal from Francis. Attracting Flies and Your Drums, Your Love are just as alluring. The warped and stretched vocal samples perfectly match the supreme pop hooks.
But after this sublime run of singles that the album slightly loses its way. There is much to savour in Bad Idea’s funky breakdown and lyrical kiss-offs, as well as in the inventive vocal manipulation of Diver, but these positives are offset by a number of songs that drift off into a more generic sound. AlunaGeorge are very much at their best when they are inventive and askewed. Best Be Believing is an example of the music becoming overly glossy, laden as it is with an incongruous choral backing.
Far better are the album’s closing tracks, which strip the sound back to its purest and most compelling form. The title track’s gloopy RnB is an excellent example of Reid’s production skills. The song also represents the lyrical side of the duo’s music. Throughout the album, Francis’ words are eminently relatable as she describes relationships and longing with an endearing candour. You can feel the yearning in her voice as she sweetly sings “I need to get that high that I felt before.” Finally, Friends To Lovers provides a gorgeous lullaby coda to the end the album.
As with many debuts, AlunaGeorge’s album has remarkable highs but is tempered by a few weaker moments. There is though, more importantly, considerable promise evident here; and that promise ensures that Body Music contains some of the most vibrant pop music you will hear all year.