Punchy, electro-funk with quirky vocals and soulful melodies, Nao’s debut LP For All We Know places her firmly into the mix of Britain’s promising new artists.
Nao, real name Neo Joshua was born in Nottingham and raised in East-London where she currently lives. She studied vocal jazz and spent six years with the girl-group The Boxettes, also working as a backing singer for Jarvis Cocker. For All We Know is her first solo LP after releasing a handful of singles and EP’s in the past two years.
Nao’s voice is distinctive; high pitched, almost childlike, it has drawn comparison with artists like Aluna Francis from AlunaGeorge and FKA Twigs however I think this is merely a way of categorising women in the industry who don’t fit into a specific genre. All three being different (and brilliant in their own way).
The mammoth 18 track record (including three short voice memos and an intro) transcends genres, Nao herself has coined the term ‘wonky funk’ to describe her sound, but she’s also been described as avant-soul, alternative-R&B and electronic-funk.
For All We Know is undoubtedly catchy, We Don’t Give A, Get to Know Ya and Inhale Exhale being the stand outs for me.
What’s great is that the album is predominately new material, I’ve seen a few artists recently who have been tarnished with the ‘EP overload’ brush – releasing too many EP’s then releasing an LP with mostly pre-released songs. With For All We Know we’ve only heard three tracks before: Bad Blood, Fool To Love and Girlfriend.
Nao cites influences such as Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway and Prince to name a few, the Prince influence is particularly evident, most notably in the sexy, electronic guitar-heavy AK Paul collaboration Trophy.
Her vocal range is impressive, shown off in the slower tempo songs like DYWM and Blue Wine but also in the more dancey tracks like Give Me a Little.
Dance music has dominated the charts for a while now and funk and soul is making a comeback. With bass-heavy electronica throughout the record, Nao feels present and relevant but her jazz background allows her to convey the soul and disco aspects of her music in an authentic way.
In my opinion For All We Know is a hit; it’s fun, upbeat, funky and I expect and hope for big things for Nao.