In the Nineties and early Noughties, urban music ruled the airwaves and the Top 40 charts. Today, there’s a dearth of it in the mainstream with RnB and hip hop having shifted more towards European club sensibilities to ensure success on international dancefloors and radio stations alike. So thankfully, AlunaGeorge have arrived on the UK music scene, sounding as though Aaliyah’s 90’s magnum opus One In a Million has been updated for the modern RnB fan by Jamie XX.
Aluna Francis was a vocalist with the now-defunct electronic group, My Toys Like Me, when George Reid showed up to offer his services remixing their track. Bonding over a shared love of Radiohead, the duo decided to join forces and merging their names and their wealth of pic-n-mix influences, ended up creating some of the slickest modern RnB tunes of the year. Their short, but oh-so-sweet, three-track EP, You Know You Like It, was recently released on the painfully cool Tri Angle Records and is undoubtedly one of the must-hear British music releases of the year.
Aluna’s caricatured voice may be a little much for certain listeners, but should make her an icon for fans of Björkian vocal quirks. She describes herself as an ‘anti-belter’, saying that with her vocal style she tries to ‘sing a song like I’d speak it, get some semblance of how you’d say something to someone. I want to make that connection; I’ll always go for character over anything.’ Her vocals lay elegantly over the title track, ‘You Know You Like It’, rising and falling, keeping with every flourish and drop in George’s bouncy production. ‘You know you like it but it drives you insane,’ she teases on the playful chorus; ‘I just wanna have some fun / don’t tell me what can’t be done.’
‘Just a Touch’ takes a more serious tone, instantly bringing to mind RnB’s late ice Queen, Aaliyah. Evoking the more adventurous days of some of his inspirations, Timbaland and The Neptunes, George’s sleek beats are dotted with futuristic blips and playful jumps. It’s a smoother version of the type of distorted RnB that can be found on the likes of James Blake’s ‘CMYK’. On the closing track, Aluna asks us to ‘put up your hands’; first as in invitation to their torch-ballad, but later as a command for her lover to surrender and admit to failure. Over the initially sparse beat she coos, “I’ve got a million emails in a box unread / from you”. The production slowly builds, as does her anger, before the chorus’ question ‘why don’t you save yourself from all this trouble and just put up your hands?’
The rest of 2012 is looking pretty bright for this London-area duo. They’ve just appeared on 6Music with Lauren Laverne and have a string of festival performances lined-up around the UK over the summer. What’s more is that they aim to have their debut album out “very soon” and are currently putting the finishing touches to another new single.
You Know You Like It is available now on iTunes.