The UK dance scene is undergoing something of a renaissance, with a set of musicians striking a balance between the wobbly world of dubstep and the soulful R&B of the 1990’s. Artists and production teams such as Disclosure, Rudimental, and Duke Dumont are creating interesting and fresh hits that are catching on due to the balance they strike between danceability and songwriting, a trait that the often homogeneous current dance scene has been lacking.
At the forefront of this movement are two new pop artists, Aluna Francis and George Reid, known by the moniker, AlunaGeorge. On their debut album "Body Music," the duo sets out to make a garage-pop album that perhaps is best as the soundtrack to the end of your night. Reid’s production is impeccably funky on every song, but very few moments are exactly peak hour dance material. While peers and past collaborators Disclosure set out to bring a sense of rhythm and pop sensibility to dance music, AlunaGeorge seems more intent on extracting the sensual wobble of current dance and slowing things down a bit over smart pop songwriting.
And smart writing it is. Francis’ lyrics are consistently playful and mercifully free of standard pop fodder, and she sings with an appealingly effortless lilt that projects a general cool over the entire album. Alternately playing the part of seductress ("You Know You Like It,") vulnerable lover ("Your Drums Your Love,") or doting lover ("Superstar,") Francis infuses a full personality into these endlessly catchy cuts.
Which is not to downplay Reid’s work on the album. AlunaGeorge is such a special project because it is one producer creating all of the music specifically for one vocalist. Dance music is so often something of an impersonal mash-up of huge vocals laid over a pre-made dance production. In contrast, "Body Music" feels like two intertwined entities. Francis seems to be singing with Reid’s instrumentation. The dubby levels of "Just A Touch" wrap almost flirtatiously around Francis’ coos. The drums and distortion on "Lost & Found" speed up fluidly with the melodies. But most interesting is how often the production does not exactly match the vocal harmonies that Francis supplies. It is dance music that feels like a duet between singer and production.
"Body Music" is an easy contender for the all important end of year lists. Fresh, cool, and impeccably assembled, it shows an exciting new duo who have their own vision of what to do with some of the overprocessed trends in music today. It’s dance music, but has a soul and a melody. Albums of this quality are rare, and this one is certainly worthy of the attention that it is sure to receive.