AlunaGeorge are a British duo comprised of Aluna Francis (vocals and songwriting) and George Reid (production and instrumentation), who’ve made it well-known that their wide array of influences range from Mariah Carey to Radiohead to Destiny’s Child to The Knife. Not that they needed to tell us that, as they proudly wear their influences on their collective sleeve. What’s truly impressive about them is how they do so without ever sounding like they’re ripping anybody off. It’s also fascinating to hear how they manage to incorporate the sounds of things like ’90’s R&B, drum ‘n’ bass and 2-step without ever really sounding retro. On the contrary, they somehow take these things and morph them into a unique sound of their own that is actually rather futuristic. In fact, it’s so unique that sometimes you think you’re listening to music from another planet.
The album opens with one of its strongest tracks, “Outlines,” which is in the vein of the dark, almost eerie R&B done recently by The Weeknd and Dawn Richard. Here the beats could be considered 2-step, but George slows them down, adds all sorts of extra percussion and inserts strange synth that seems to collapse on itself every other second. There’s also a very glitchy element to the song. Vocally, Aluna sounds like a cross between a sarcastic girl in her early teens and a more sensual version of Lily Allen, which should help them appeal to a younger audience than peers like The XX and CocoRosie, whom I’m sure have informed Body Music as well. As for her lyrics, they could be ripped right out of a teenager’s journal. “Is this paper all I’ve got, all I’ve got to keep you with me? / Keep you from fading away,” she more or less coos.
Body Music is the duo’s first full-length album, but they previously dropped a couple of singles and an EP. Their first single, “You Know You Like It,” was released back in 2011, but it sounds perfectly at home here among their newer tunes. It’s a bouncy, peppy electro-glitch-pop delight that finds Aluna chastising a lover and declaring that she’s not a follower. “If you wanna train me like an animal / Better keep your eye on my every move,” she warns.
While every detail of their songs sounds entirely deliberate, the production being nothing short of immaculate, there is a whimsical quality to Aluna’s songwriting that keeps their songs from sounding too calculated. And George is actually quite adventurous with his production, constantly doing different things to give each song its own identity. It’s just that he’s a perfectionist once he’s decided to do whatever he’s going to do.
One of their most effervescent tunes is “Attracting Flies,” which is like La Roux as remixed by Felix Da Housecat with its punchy beats and snappy electro-clash percussion. It also uses lots of assorted instruments that I couldn’t even begin to identify and enough loops to make Garbage jealous. Speaking of Garbage, Aluna’s lyrics here are as biting as Shirley Manson’s: “Little grey fairy tales / And little white lies / Everything you exhale is attracting flies.”
Body Music also scores points with its downtempo numbers, like the trippy “Diver,” which casts Aluna’s vocals to the background during the verses, resulting in an effect that almost makes it sound like she’s singing underwater. The song is also very slick and slippery. And all of this fits the lyrics perfectly: “I wanna be a diver into the sea / Beyond my world, going over me / A dangerous world, setting me free / I wanna be a climber in liquidity.” To that end, you can almost hear liquid flowing or being poured over ice with some of the wooshy and slushy sounds here. But, at its core, this is a Destiny’s Child-esque R&B song… as reimagined space aliens.
The closest thing the album has to a traditional ballad is its other downtempo tune, “Friends To Lovers,” but even that refuses to sound contemporary, continuing on with their futuristic vibe. It has a hard-hitting, throbbing beat at its core but it’s surrounded by odd bleeps, droning bass and somber synths, among other things. “How do you make the change form friends to lovers? / When you is looking like a fool / Maybe it will be safer playing sister and brother / But I’m going crazy trying to stay cool,” Aluna sings, practically purring.
My only complaint about Body Music is that all of the songs would seem to be about romantic relationships. Aluna spends half the time talking about lovers she desires and the other half dismissing those she no longer has any use for. I’m not suggesting they write a bunch of insipid party anthems like Black-Eyed Peas but it would be nice if they could explore other subjects on album number two, which I am very much looking forward to.