Why Manchester is the new creative epicentre of neo-soul and hip-hop
AlunaGeorge’s latest song, the first from their upcoming début album on Island Records and since the release of the ‘I Know You Like It’ EP on Tri-Angle, is a real gem. The skittering drum track, rich synths and the samples looped into a deflating melody on the chorus are irresistible and singer Aluna’s light, brushed vocals couldn’t be better suited to the song’s mood. To describe it as tentative seems wrong considering how accomplished Your Drums, Your Love sounds but that’s what AlunaGeorge nail. It’s shapely but searching: unafraid of messy overlaps and loose ends.
The whole conceit is about hanging on in a turbulent relationship and the key question is never answered nor are the two protagonists isolated in some conceptual bubble. The story’s about progression and two lovers trying to catch up to each other or find a middle point to meet. Like the excellent Just A Touch before it, Your Drums, Your Love can be reserved, accusatory or vulnerable – the perspectives of outsiders looking into the relationship are notable considerations in both songs – but doesn’t clip its view to fit a standardized song structure. The bridge at the end is the closest to finding a conclusion but falls back into that elusive chorus.
What really sets Your Drums, Your Love apart though, what makes the experimentations more than just interesting or playful, is the emotional openness of the song-writing. The narrator doesn’t know whether they’ll sink or swim but their one promise is that they’ll be thinking of their partner regardless. The sentiment is so generous it’ll melt your heart. Some artists can convey the big gesture well, like the Atlas-like feats of vocal projection perfected by Beyoncé, but AlunaGeorge do the smaller things. In that regard you could compare them to Brandy or Aaliyah; first generation Sugababes or Róisín Murphy at her least willfully strange, to bring things closer to home.
The references try to explain that the group are sweet but strong and direct but idiosyncratic but it’s probably more useful to just say that AlunaGeorge are so appealing because they sound like real people and Your Drums, Your Love is a brilliantly crafted song about real people’s lives. Authenticity is an attribute too loose, maybe even irrelevant, to pin to musicians definitively but it’s unmistakable when you do hear it.