AlunaGeorge – Body Music | Album Review | By Volume

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Body Music

“Body Music hits those pleasure centers like a ton of bricks”

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Author: on August 15, 2013
Vagrant/Island Records
July 26, 2013

There’s a code to these sorts of things. A checklist of crit-speak to adequately assess certain hypes, where the influences and namedrops are almost as important as the music in deciding just where, exactly, a particular piece of music fits into the year, the scene, the personal narrative of the artist or the writer. I could say that the duo of vocalist Aluna Francis and producer George Reid takes a colorful grab bag of ‘90s influences and modern techniques and mish-mashes them into a compelling blur of styles and histories. I could say that the two seem as home with the sounds of TLC as they do with James Blake, that Reid’s minimal bleeps and bloops pay homage to Timbaland and oOoOO, that Francis injects the acidic spirit of Lily Allen with some R&B flair and dramatics. I could say that they re-contextualize the landmark sounds of the past with an innovative and exciting modern bent, laptop pop with a predator’s single-minded pursuit of the FM dial. See: Purity Ring, Disclosure, Chvrches, etc. (and Hot Chip, and the xx, and on and on down through the blogs amen), any number of bands for which the labels are at this point interchangeable, less helpful descriptions and more a tag and a search term. Fresh, exciting, as “unique” as any artist in an increasingly crowded scene can be – future-pop, if you want to be accurately Pitchforkian about it all.  Or I could just say that Body Music hits those pleasure centers like a ton of bricks, the ones that make you unabashedly blast the volume anytime “Toxic” comes on, the ones where tags don’t mean so much relative to how much fun you end up having. Body Music, as it turns out, is a whole hell of a lot of fun.

If that goofy, unfortunate cover of arena staple “This Is How We Do It” tacked onto the end of the record didn’t tip you off, AlunaGeorge pay lip homage to ‘90s R&B but steal liberally from all over the sonic map – if it bumps, it’s fine by them. The sounds are indelibly modern, the kind of electro-pop that is part progressive and part expected in 2013. Reid’s reverb-heavy production skips and scratches its way through mellow tonal shifts, while the druggy mood changes and fluid basslines fit the bedroom pop moniker to a tee. Those inconspicuous hooks become something else, though, when paired with Francis, whose pipes would never hold up in a singing competition but who has a certain iciness and a control to her vocals that give these skittish compositions their engine. Her limits are a blessing in disguise, flavoring the songs with subtle shifts and playful twists instead of forcing things front and center and overboard. Keeping the focus on the interplay between her lyrics and Reid’s quicksilver beats enhances the imagery prevalent throughout Body Music, making the pure sonic confection of a single like “Attracting Flies” (if you like your pop with some socio-political subtext, it’s interesting how Francis elides the chorus to sound like “USA”) or the stunning, limber “Diver” such layered treats.

These kinds of gushing descriptions are hard to avoid when trying to summarize a feeling and a hook, two things that Body Music pairs successfully with surprising regularity. With the exception of “Attracting Flies” and “Lost and Found” (which is practically all hook), the songs here embed themselves into your wires and gradually crank up the voltage – even an earworm like “You Know You Like It” creeps up on you with that languid bass and mush-mouthed chorus. While not necessarily as kinetic as the title would suggest, Body Music’s greatest attributes are its consistency and replayability, traits that tend to go hand in hand. The dull ache at the center of “Outlines,” the fragile core of the album in “Friends and Lovers,” the inevitable emotional car wreck in “Bad Idea”: Body Music is the rare pop record where these things reveal themselves gradually instead of in a heady sugar rush. Part of this is the understated production, Reid is not rocking the boat, but instead settling in deep in the grain. Part of this is Francis herself, as permeable a singer as you’ll hear all year, firmly in control of the direction but never pushing, never prodding. Mostly, though, it’s just AlunaGeorge, the inextricable couple, putting together a fine, modern pop album, statement, another piece in the growing narrative that is 2013, whatever. All I know is that there’s nothing I’d rather sing along to in the privacy of my morning commute this summer than Body Music.

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