— from Canada —
New Look (2011)
have fashioned one of
the albums of the year!*
New Look's self-titled debut – issued on !K7, home to the mighty Chromeo and the DJ Kicks series – is almost a companion piece to Rapprocher by Brooklyn's Elizabeth Harper, being an album of electronic pop sung by a female, in this case Sarah Ruba, a part-time model who, with her producer/multi-instrumentalist husband Adam Pavao, has spent the last three years recording New Look in Brooklyn, as well as Berlin and their home town of Hamilton. Apparently, they have experience in ambient jam bands (Pavao) and as jazz belters (Ruba), but mercifully they've put all that behind them and are focusing on shiny dubstep pop, or post-dubstep pop seeing as how it takes some of the rhythmical devices and production methods of dubstep and allies them to pure pop melodies. Yes, it would be nice just once for the producer/sidekick to be the woman and the frontperson/eye-candy to be the man, but these darlings of blogs and the style press, who recently supported the xx on tour, are such masters and mistresses of icy emotionality, we forgive them.
They're also pretty good self-editors, hence all the lovely dub space in their songs. "We try not to keep anything superfluous in," they explain. "We're always conscious of the negative space in our music and that's a constant theme." They've cornered the market in less-is-more. Nap on the Bow is the perfect blend of crispness and melodic concision. Has there been a single instance of this stuff getting any daytime radio play, though, let alone charting? Possibly not. And yet this feels like a hit, just as New Look's London counterparts, AlunaGeorge, are fantasy top 10 heroes of ours. Relax Your Mind is a brilliantly raw, sparse sort of feminised grime. On Numbers the words are haiku-like in their simplicity but convey just the right amount of fear and yearning: "The telephone is not a toy/ It has power to destroy." Have you ever noticed that? We have, often. A Light has an itchy, quirky arrangement that is more Björk than Benga. The Ballad has the austere atmosphere of Fade to Grey/Being Boiled. So Real is like Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam doing late-90s/early-00s UKG. Does that make it R&G? While you're pondering that, Everything is like a showdown between dub creator Scientist and St Etienne. Ruba visits every song like a hologram of passion, and the music is a mirage of immaculacy. And now we're going to vanish, before we say too much.
Hometown: Hamilton, Canada.
The lineup: Sarah Ruba (vocals, synths) and Adam Pavao (keyboards, production).
The background: You might imagine that New Look are offering a pithy comment on consumerist culture by assuming the name of a popular retail outlet (who said "chav mecca"?), but it's unlikely, because it only has branches in the UK (and France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates), and this duo are from Canada. Besides, they've got bigger priorities than poking fun at the peculiarities of British fashion, such as recording one of the albums of the year. We are fond of listing our new acts of the year (Odd Future, Jensen Sportag, StewRat, AlunaGeorge, Keep Shelly in Athens) and our tracks of the year, but we haven't given much thought to our albums of the year, mainly because there haven't been that many. But now we have a fine addition to the 2011 canon that includes such latter-day quiet-storm classics as Frank Ocean's Nostalgia, Ultra, the Weeknd's House of Balloons and Class Actress' Rapprocher.
"My personal favorite