It wasn’t until 2015’s February 15 EP that Nao really started to garner attention for her progressive, entrancing music – that EP’s “Inhale Exhale” is still great, and is present here – and ever since that EP’s release in May 2015 the curiosity of what a Nao full-length would sound like has been palpable. This week sees the release of For All We Know, an album that cobbles together tracks from her 2015 EP with new compositions, and the result is one of the more interesting pop music listening experiences of the year. “I like songs that capture a vibe,” Nao told Beats 1 radio host Julie Adenuga earlier this year, and those vibes are felt throughout Know. The album has a charming DIY-aesthetic to it, with the colorful sounds faded at the edges, Nao’s vocals shifting in and out of focus.
I’m mostly reminded of Jai Paul’s otherworldly compositions when listening to For All We Know, and his brother even shows up on the standout “Trophy.” Paul’s imprint can be felt on many Know tracks, but it’s Nao’s that looms largest. She proved to be a compelling vocalist in bursts through her EPs and singles, but it had yet to be determined how she would fare over the course of a full-length LP. At 18-tracks and 54 minutes, this is certainly a full-length, and never once does Nao overstay her welcome. She’s a spritely force, a ray of light that’s able to brighten up the entire room. Nan’s vocal performances are captivating, some of the strongest takes I’ve heard all year. For instance, take the show-stopping “In the Morning,” which begins rather innocuous before blowing up into her largest song yet. “Let me go,” she pleads, and her wish is granted through sheer force. “I can take your breath away,” she sings breathily on the closing “Feels Like (Perfume).” For all we know, she just might.
Listen to For All We Know via Apple Music.