Anticipation has been building for the debut album from Toronto’s real life couple, Sara Ruba and Adam Pavao, and it doesn’t disappoint. Yet if the spirit of the music the duo make is to be kept, the plaudits deservedly earned from this record will have to be delivered in hushed tones, rather than shouted from the rooftops.
The philosophy is very much a ‘less is more’ approach – in a manner that brings to mind their compatriots the Junior Boys. Each synthesizer line is carefully pointed, each bass drum beat or high hat seemingly preserved in ice, and each vocal given plenty of room in which to breathe. With a more minimal approach the elements have to be spot on – and Ruba and Pavao master the art of delivering greater emotion through the bare components. The production is beautifully delivered, in a manner that welcomes analogue and digital together, and Ruba often sounds like she’s singing up the end of the same room.
It is Ruba’s voice, in fact, that gives New Look the ability to really lift off emotionally. There is a yearning here, a fragility even, that immediately takes the duo’s music to a late night lounge or bar where people sit contemplating their relationships in intricate detail over an ice cold martini. “We’re getting closer to the shore…we can only hope it’ll last” she sings in the thoughtful opener Map On The Bow. The more urgent Teen Need tells a vulnerable story. “Did you see me dancing, I was trying to turn you on. Do you want my number?” it asks, coyly, before openly declaring how “it makes me wait, this heartbreak”.
Recent single release The Ballad is the pick of these moments, finding resolution in its moving lyric “this is the part where everybody says they love you so, you know I love you so”, with the block chords that follow. The interweaving vocals of Relax Your Mind are also a treat. In truth, though, each of the 10 songs is exquisitely crafted, the uncertainty and originality of the lyrics lending an often unresolved tension to each song. Ruba also sounds as if she really means every word that she sings, an obvious point to note you might think, but one often overlooked.
As with the Junior Boys, the vocals are largely on the quiet side, but Pavao’s arrangements fit them hand in glove, the rhythms often elevated towards the dancefloor. This may be music for more introverted moments, but with hearts and emotions laid bare like this, it cries out for people to hear. Word of mouth will suffice for now, but in time a lot of people will indeed be shouting about this fine piece of work.