Published Oct 23, 2018Saturn's return looms over NAO's second album, an astrological phenomenon occurring in one's late 20s, when a monumental shift occurs. On Saturn, the London-based singer-songwriter delves into the difficulty and ecstasy of reasserting one's identity, pushing her sound into new realms. "Make It Out Alive," a moody, beat driven duet with SiR appears to set the tone of the album — but don't be fooled, this is just one side of the eclectic vision NAO brings forth. Her and SiR's harmonies coalesce, as a pensive, bass-led chorus spills forth: "Fall too deep, too deep to get outta here…"
Dreamy production abounds on Saturn, heard on "If You Ever," a rhythmic, earnest invitation to a lost love. Strings and harp inflections elevate the track, which relies on the genuine feeling and sweet tone of NAO's voice. She uses interludes on the album, mirroring a technique used on her debut, For All We Know — in this instance, the concept of Saturn's return is explained amidst radio feedback and otherworldly sounds. This cosmological theme continues throughout Saturn, as NAO creates a rich soul ballad on the title track (featuring Kwabs) and experiments with vocal effects on "Orbit."
"Drive and Disconnect" is Afrobeat-influenced with a dark edge — its cyclical rhythm is sure to remain in listeners' heads — while "Curiosity" satisfies as a certified slow jam. Transcending this world, "Yellow of the Sun" blends funk and escapism, as NAO imagines a Thelma & Louise-influenced vision: "Let's drive right off this canyon, into paradise."
NAO weaves together both intimate and fictionalized accounts of her rollercoaster of a Saturn return on her second album, inviting listeners into the recent events of her life while charting new territory — her "wonky funk" moniker is nodded to, but this collection eclipses it. Drama is softened by sincerity on the record, as NAO finds balance in the wake of chaos. (Little Tokyo Recordings)