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New Look New Look Review

Album. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

One of the most distinctive new sounds of the year.

Natalie Shaw 2011

The most distinctive voices of the past 20 years have often been the most economical. Take Aaliyah and Sade, two vocalists whose vulnerability comes through most powerfully when they’re caught catching a breath. There's angst and mystery as the songs play out, an image of both singers biting their lip to stop them stretching too far.

New Look’s Sarah Ruba can now join that very exclusive club; her vocal is an understated treasure chest of emotion. And you know by listening to this self-titled debut album that she could floor the listener with a money-note at a second’s notice. Doubling up as a supermodel, her beauty extends further than the recording studio – and together with her husband Adam Pavao, she has created one of the most distinctive new sounds of the year.

There’s far more than a stunning vocal at stake here, though. Each of this album’s 10 tracks has the feel of a rare gem, so stunning that it’s a wonder why headphones can’t sit closer to the cortex. The mix going on seems to reference Yazoo, Kraftwerk and Theo Parrish in equal measure, forever chic and blunt; synth swells act as a spotlight for moments when Ruba’s whispering lower tones become higher, less hushed.

New Look’s debut album is also rare in how natural and effortless it sounds. Its structure is immaculate – its order so that influences are reimagined as a dream. Clipped beats and pop hooks come together with heart-wrenching power, and there’s the requisite amount of distance when singing so non-specifically about being away from the world and in love. Ruba sings, "I wanna feel how it feels in the world" on Everything, almost brought to the ground by her own watery hypnosis.

The results are distinct but similarly astounding elsewhere. Teen Need’s zingy textures and ominous lower range bring out New Look’s rave side, taking them closer to fellow Canadians Azari & III. At the other end of the scale, the seraphic love-obsessed lyrics on Nap on the Bow ("you and me on an island") pit the essence of disco against stuttering, harsh synths buried deep down low.

How well-aligned this entire record sounds is a marvel – time passes quicker when its 10 tracks are the backdrop. And regardless of what happens next, this is an essential record made by two people with astonishing control, skill and knowledge; one which makes us proud of what music has done in the past 20 years, and just what it can now create.

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