NAO’s sophomore studio album, Saturn, released under her own label, Little Tokyo Recordings, was released unto us last Friday. Her phenomenal debut album, For All We Know, hurtled her into the spotlight back in July 2016, dripping in soul and R&B with electronic and consistently funky dance production.
The album marks a return from a two-year hiatus, which saw very little music released except the 2017 buzz single, ‘Nostalgia’, and features on globally renowned artists such as Mura Masa (‘Complicated’) and disco funk legends, CHIC. Now, the Brit award nominee neo-soul goddess is back once again, flourishing her astounding vocal range and ability to transport the listener into her mind.
NAO lifts the album off to an atmospheric start with ‘Another Lifetime’, fully instating NAO as the queen of dramatic pauses in songs, as seen heavily on her first album with songs like ‘Girlfriend’. Wading through the topic of time and space, both in terms of outer space and NAO’s own personal experience throughout the album, she is able to contrast her uplifting production with weariness lyrically.
Saturn – the gas giant with a radius 9-times that of Earth – takes roughly 29 years to completely orbit the Sun, which also happens to be the age of NAO. Her concept being that, at this point in life, “something big happens”, rethinking and replanning your life occurs in a way that NAO describes as “a complete shedding of skin and it can be painful.”
A range of R&B talent from all over the industry, including 6LACK, Kwabs and SiR, supplement her high-pitched vocals with luscious warm, deep vocals. Most notable is Kwabs’ distinctive texture woven into the minimalistic track ‘Saturn’, creating a Daniel Caesar-esque sounding classic soul track.
NAO’s ability to produce records all the way from the retro soul to her pioneering neo-soul futuristic electro-funk sound, as is so clearly visible on this project, leaves her reigning champion and provides a perfect follow up to her debut.