The lineup: Rebekah Raa (vocals), Nic Nell (music).
The background: This year’s BBC Sound Of… poll has had the usual mixed reaction. We think it’s a pretty strong lineup, even if just on the basis of FKA Twigs and Kelela, but there’s also Say Lou Lou and MNEK, Jungle and Sampha, Chance the Rapper and Luke Sital-Singh… It’s a good list. But already, we’re wondering: what about such-and-such? And how could they have left out so-and-so?
Today’s new band really feel like a glaring omission. Some of their stuff is stunning. They’re a duo with shades of other two-pieces such as Ms Mr and Iyes, the music not a million miles from Kelela’s out-there R&B team-ups with the Night Slugs people, mixed with a Scandinavian quirk-pop sensibility. They comprise Rebekah Raa (formerly Stricken City) and Nic Nell (his producer name is Casually Here and he’s one half of Young Colossus with the Maccabees’ Orlando Weeks) and they’ve released a double A-side, Girls/Money, and an EP entitled Hope/Satin/Glass/Dreams. They call themselves “pop satirists” and the way Rebekah Raa sings (deceptively sweetly) and casts a critical eye over the culture – not to mention her breathily casual enunciation of the phrase “fuck this shit” on Girls – bears comparison with Lorde. They admit to loving the sheer expensive bigness of (North) American pop productions from R Kelly to Miley to the Weeknd while also paying attention to Rinse FM and Reprezent and the forlorn “nightbus” electronicscapes and post-garage chart sounds that have emerged out of that world from AlunaGeorge to Burial to Disclosure.
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Lyrical influences include “altered states of mind and strange conversations” and the “scary but exhilarating nature of sex” and subject matter ranges from “happiness to neediness, melancholy to insanity”. As for Nell, he writes the music either following a spell in a sensory deprivation flotation tank or just before losing consciousness “in that weird border state between being awake and sleep”. The results are intoxicating. Money, notwithstanding that “fuck this shit”, has a melodic loveliness that contrasts with the tart irascibility of the lyric, but with some deft censorship (as per the Vamps and Icona Pop) it could do the biz. Rainer’s X-factored lyrics might be the only thing standing between them and daytime radio playlists: Satin (“I’m out having fun here on my own”) is an ode to listless masturbation; “about telling your boy to come home from that party he shouldn’t be at because you’re pretty much naked and waiting for him.” Swallow (“I feel vulnerable… this is a delicate time. I’m buried alive!”) appears to be about oral sex. A bleep here and a cut there and… they’re a hit.