As the heavenly voice descends from the ceiling you begin to wonder what you are about to witness.
She tells you how it feels like velvet and how it disappears like the wind. Then the signature funk and vibrant R&B of Nao begins. If you have heard either of her EPs (February 15th, So Good) you know this type of sound. On this full album though it is more dynamic on tracks like “Bad Blood”, “In The Morning”, “Girlfreind”, “Blue WIne” and ”Give Me A Little.” “Get To Know Ya” starts us off on a high note, The way the beat is sequenced and seemingly chopped together is exceptional. I found myself repeatedly singing the chorus throughout the day. “Inhale Exhale” is from the February ep and is slightly changed here - not entirely for the better. The new mix is more in line with the album, but weakens the chorus which was so strong on the original version.
In between snippets from what sounds like recording session we get “Happy”, an upbeat summer friendly track. That while not that exceptional compared to some of the cuts here is quite enjoyable. “Adore You” like “Inhale Exhale” is from an old EP this one comes from So Good, while I loved it on there it seems needless here.
Track 8 through 14 is where the meat of this album lies. “In The Morning” is a fantastic song, the build up throughout is masterful. The track amplifies the emotions of the lyrics, the stripped down choruses make us feel the pain of having to let this person go. The breakdown about 2 minutes and 20 seconds in feels like the realization that this person was not worth all of the trouble she went through. The final breakdown is especially nasty and violent and had me going crazy in the car. Because this is a total new sound from Nao, this massive build up and breakdown to this aggressive beat is so unlike anything she has done before. “Trophy” continues that trend with a sleazy, filtered guitar line that persists throughout the track. She tells you how she is not a trophy and “age ain't but a number/ do you care?”. It’s all pretty sexual, she even says that she needs to give her partner “protection right now.” There might be cat purrs in there as well.
“Bad Blood” is one of the best tracks on here. When the beat comes in, you will not be able to stay still. The drums are wicked, the instrumental as a whole is killer. The Chorus on here is massive and is just awesome. The timing of how she says the final blood of the chorus is just impeccable. “DYWM” is another great track. “We Don’t Give A” is one of my favorite tracks here, the build up to the beat dropping in is damn good. The groove is amazing, if you don’t find yourself dancing I don’t trust you. The lyrics also touch on a pretty controversial topic as well, interracial dating. “Give Me A Little” is another super dope song, the bass line is sublime. It is a supremely enjoyable song, again if you don’t find yourself dancing I DON’T TRUST YOU!
“Voice Memo 4” is where the final act of the album begins. “Blue Wine” is moody and atmospheric to the extreme. When she breaks into the chorus it is like watching a object moving across the starry sky at night. The Chorus on “Girlfriend” is one of the biggest sounding choruses I have heard in a long time. The way the instrumental writhes in between the lines imbues power onto the words. The instrumental sections before the last chorus has this cool guitar line that I wish was used a little more. The other instrumental section with its organ sounds like a reverend might start talking or Cannonball Adderley might give you advice. “Feels Like (Perfume)” ends the album. I’m not sure how exactly I feel about it. On one hand I love the nature of it and how Nao takes control of the personal in the story. The actual instrumental is one of the weaker ones on this album unfortunately.
For All We Know as a whole is an awesome album, it has some failures but the high points are so monumental those failures don’t matter. I think how much Nao has grown since her EPs is promising for future music and am excited for what will come next.
by Addison Garry (@addisonagarry)