AlunaGeorge’s background is simple. The duo met on myspace with prior musical engagements. He (producer George Reid) likes Timbaland and The Neptunes, she (singer Aluna Francis) likes The Knife and CocoRosie. Together on their debut Tri Angle EP they make playful bedroom R&B that’s less Evy Jane or How To Dress Well and more Lapalux or Baths, avoiding the downcast tonalities of dreary-eyed soulful outsider electro and instead delighting in some of the major key levity of ’90s female fronted R&B. You Know You Like It is a bloop-heavy, not overly unfamiliar affair right at home at Tri Angle, but it’s sharp songwriting, strong, emotive vocals, and unostentatious attitude lead to three of the most unassumingly replayable pop songs of the year.
Reid is an excellent, though not overly unpredictable, producer. He plays the EP pretty straight, keeping to the black and white monochrome seen on the record sleeve and the duo’s promo photos, lining the tracks with cushy staccato bass lines and callused hand claps while spit-shined Brainfeeder-esque synth squalls cover the EP’s consonant edges. The duo is smart in letting Francis lead the show, taking all the UK bass and weirdo hip-hop tendencies and focusing them into spartan, unfussy pop songs instead of the other way around.
Francis is the real draw. She’s able to pull off plain-faced, everyday sexiness, icy confidence, and angelic vulnerability all at once. She doesn’t belt, but the songs are defined by the simultaneous breadth and subtlety of her voice in a song’s smaller melodic, hook-y moments. After the first chorus on “You Know You Like It” she blows up with “If you want to traaain me!” then immediately settles with a teasing, “like an an-i-mal,” dragging every clearly pronounced syllable into an ironic, half-lidded come-on. The following line (“Keep an eye on my every move”) is delivered in a deliciously doubled-tracked monotone to further sweeten things. “Just A Touch”‘s bridge might be the EP’s strongest moment, returning from the chorus with a beautiful melody change as Francis breathily gets out “I know jealousy is wrong / but this feeling’s too strong,” the subtlest undertone of indignant desperation rounding her words.
You Know You Like It peaks with “Put Up Your Hands,” which has a bombastic sing-a-long chorus – Francis’ stuttering recitations of the title punctuated by a thundering mechanical bass synth – and another earworm of a bridge. It ends, and you start the EP over. Stacked next to other rising left-field, bass-informed R&B-ers like the aforementioned Evy Jane, AlunaGeorge aren’t necessarily the most exciting thing in the sharply honed sub-genre that’s become a nice little staple of indie in 2012, but I know I want more from this duo and I know they have the potential to deliver something even more significant.