Nao has never struggled to deliver dance-able bass lines; her wobbling funk music bounces with a certain fury giving her high, R&B vocals a smoldering impact. On For All We Know, Nao’s debut full-length project, punchy dance tunes make up a considerable amount of the expansive track-list, however, the album is far from one dimensional. Beginning with a glossy intro-track with Nao’s playful vocals slithering around in moody space, the project continues on a rather unpredictable path with shimmering synthesizers reigning in soaring ballads between the dark-tinged club hits. Nao has even added brief stints into incomplete melodies on tracks entitled “voice memo,” breaking up the more densely contrived grooves. Although not uncommon in this genre, a quick-hitting track-list allows for an over-arching theme with “In the Morning” and “DYWM” acting as energy peaks. Perhaps a few more risks could have been taken sonically, but the album never fails to entertain with a wide variety of song structures coming throughout the 53 minute length.
“Get to Know Ya” breaks the ambiance of the intro track with groovy electronic sounds bursting from the very first instance. A somewhat minimalist song in comparison to Nao’s more momentous efforts, “Get to Know Ya” inspires dance while retaining a sense of subtlety, the vocals remaining somewhat introverted. The next song on the track-list, “Inhale Exhale,” becomes a bit more outgoing, with Nao’s vocals soaring over an infectious synth melody. After this song, the album takes a slight digression returning to the subdued energy of “Get to Know Ya,” before massive sounds return on “In the Morning.” A song about letting a partner go, “In the Morning” begins with heart-wrenching vocals with small percussion sounds. As the soundscape widens, Nao’s vocals become more and more emotionally strained with shimmering synths bringing in the climax of the song. A song carrying this emotionally weight is a somewhat rare thing in dance music as the main focus is to get people moving, but Nao proves to be much more than one-dimensional at every turn on this album, supporting a somewhat long album effortlessly. Deeper in the track-list comes the longest piece, “DYWM,” which also thrives on a long-standing build-up, energy increasing throughout the five minute tune.
Although the album is a bit metallic and refined, Nao manages to avoid over-indulging, keeping her background styling to a minimum whenever possible. Songs like “Trophy,” “Girlfriend,” and “Fool to Love” see Nao playing around with what seems to be only a few instrumental tracks, maintaining a concise sense of movement. In doing so, Nao successfully maintains momentum, while achieving contrast. Also, the album’s moments of grandeur are not achieved through some sort of beat drop. Rather, Nao elects to escalate her sounds then suddenly pull them away for only a breath before smacking the listener in the face. This can be found on “In the Morning” around the 3:15 mark, Nao structures the song as one big build up with this slight digression making for a shocking moment that adds to the drive of the song.
For All We Know is a great dance album. From beginning to end, Nao delivers sultry bass lines with fantastic vocals. Emotion comes into the equation on occasion making for a good amount of contrast. Perhaps a bit more could have been done in terms of ballads as the emphasis is generally placed on dance vibes, but Nao has a true talent for funk. Even at her most modest, Nao delivers songs that could blow entire dance albums out of the water.
Nao really killed this one. 8/10