When I first announced the artists that would be part of my Class of 2013, I basically promised that it would be even better than my Class of 2012. You could say that I had high hopes for all of these ten artists, and much to my chagrin, they actually delivered this year. There was plenty of action to be found, and plenty of profiles raised to new heights of popularity and stardom. It’s amazing to think that not only did virtually everyone improve their stature in the music world, but about half of them released full lengths that made my Top 50 Albums of 2013 list, not to mention many others’. In short, I’m exceptionally proud of the work all of these artists did over the last year, and invite you to join me now for a quick recap of what they did across 2013.
Some artists just really like to make you wait. You’ll hear an incredible single from them one week, a second single six months later, and then the debut full length finally arrives after about two long years of being patient. One of the more recent examples of this can be seen in Purity Ring, who released a couple of songs at the start of 2011 but didn’t get around to an album until a record deal was firmly in place more than a year and a half later. The most recent victims of this extended period of limbo are London duo AlunaGeorge. Aluna Francis and George Reed first got together and unleashed the single “You Know You Like It” in August of 2011, yet after a long period of label negotiations and stopgap singles it took until July 2013 to get their debut Body Music out into the world. There’s that initial wave of relief if you’ve had your patience tested from the beginning, followed by the inevitable question, “Was it really worth the wait?” It’s one thing to be a band like My Bloody Valentine with an established career and heightened expectations that allow you to delay your next album for 20+ years, but when you’re a brand new act without much more than a couple songs attached to your name, time is never on your side no matter how long you want to take perfecting that first big statement.
At their core, AlunaGeorge are essentially a nostalgia act with a modern-day twist. Both Francis and Reed grew up in the ’90s, and are now taking the pop and R&B stylings from their formative years and warping them ever so slightly for a modern audience. But that’s been a cycle for a long time now, and the popularity of these acts is often dependent on what the cultural zeitgeist happens to be at the time. Perhaps AlunaGeorge were right to wait a couple years before releasing Body Music, since their sound is much more in vogue now than it was when they first started. Still, you’ve also got to think that any group that displays the sort of talent that they do on their debut would attract attention no matter when it was released.
One of the odder things about Body Music is it’s opening track “Outlines.” The song itself isn’t odd or even bad by any means, but its placement is what’s striking about it. It’s a slow and rather emotional ballad in a spot typically reserved for an energetic hook-filled track that engages with the listener and provides incentive to keep going. After all, in R&B the blues always gets second billing next to rhythm. In this case though, rhythm arrives on track two thanks to the bouncy beats and memorable chorus of their very first single, “You Know You Like It.” The album quickly shifts into overdrive by backing that up with two more insanely good singles in “Attracting Flies” and “Your Drums, Your Love.” In fact, one of the biggest problems this record has is an overabundance of bouncy, fun and catchy tracks. With so many hooks and dynamic moments, it becomes difficult to let anything sink in because the next thing hits just as hard. But while it can feel like one whitewashed groove after another, particularly towards the end of the record, perhaps that lends it some great replay value. In that sense, you can learn to better appreciate the racing “Lost and Found” or the helium-synth on “Just A Touch.”
While the idea of giving fans the most for their money (and long wait) might make sense to a degree, Body Music actually suffers due to a little bit of overindulgence and bloating. At 14 tracks and just over 50 minutes, you wind up worn down and have to drag yourself through those last 10 minutes. There is nothing particularly worthwhile or great about the ballad “Friends to Lovers,” and the “bonus track” cover of Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It” serves mainly as a reminder of how well done the original version is. Both could have been chopped off the album like a diseased limb, and we would have been better off for it. Yet other than that relatively minor issue of excess, there’s not a whole lot else wrong with the album. Francis and Reed both prove their worth and have rendered a slick (occasionally to a fault) debut that’s almost exactly what you’d want from them. The problem with giving people what they want though is that an increased set of expectations goes along with it. They stick to the formula and prove to be especially adept with it, but next time had better include some innovation, experimentation and a general evolution beyond where they’re currently at. It’s only through that approach that they’ll be able to prove themselves to be more than just a momentary flash in the pan.
Stream 90 second clips of the entire album after the jump!