On “Attracting Flies” Aluna Francis sings “little grey fairy tales and little white lies, everything you exhale is attracting flies.” It’s this kind of roundabout approach to conveying a very direct message that characterizes much of AlunaGeorge’s debut LP, Body Language. Bold and expressive electronica camouflaged smartly as “radio friendly” R&B, Body Music manages to express a decadence of texture while remaining fairly low-key and weirdly austere. You could say that AlunaGeorge’s take on R&B exemplifies many aspects of London’s post-dub sect, including a preference for tones and themes that might be considered retrograde (see the goofy organ parts on “Friends To Lovers”). Body Music is obsessed with tradition, but the album always manages to seem more playful than reverent; most impressively, AlunaGeorge seem to be as dedicated to absence as other R&B artists are to excess.
“Kaleidoscope Love” is Body Music’s textural leading man. “Kaleidoscope Love” is an insistence of a song, and it’s one that inarguably proves AlunaGeorge to be something other – something deeper – than a mere pop act. Other tendencies towards the deep and the dark are particularly apparent on tracks like “Body Music” – which sounds kind of like a brighter, bouncier Mount Kimbie – and the minimal “Attracting Flies.” Body Music is a pop album, dominated by Francis’ slim but suave performances, but it’s one whose pop elements don’t preclude it from being as tonally engaging as more “cerebral” fare. Francis’ voice maneuvers some rather daunting non-pop structures and samples, but always manages to make the interaction seem natural and obvious.
Body Music’s upfront style of production gives it a delicious crispness, but an unwillingness to provide for any muted or muddled tones means that all of the songs are fitted to your ears in the exact same way. Musically, nothing is hidden, which means that there isn’t anything to dig for, although the frontspiece of each song is so rich with composition that you wouldn’t even think to do anything other than let Body Music wash over you. Body Music does feel a little longer than it needs to be, though it isn’t necessarily obvious what needs to be trimmed. The “grasping at straws era of a doomed relationship” ballad that is “Just A Touch” might where I’d start, but even that song has edifying moments that unquestionably belong it to the species of “good pop song.”
Body Music is a great album, one borne on the back of wildly inventive but never too obtuse samples and fantastically enunciated lyrics. It’s an album whose songs are mostly good, though – songs that have great moments, sure, but are ultimately solid and not exceptional. And there’s nothing wrong with that: Body Music is a worthwhile listen, and one of the slickest and smartest (see: guilt free) albums of straight up radio R&B to emerge in the 2010s. With one foot wedged firmly in a door to the underground, Body Music is the perfect version of a pop album for people who think they’re too smart to like pop music.