New Look – New Look (2010)

New Look album cover
New Look album cover

When Prince’s 1999 was originally released, the husband and wife team that make up New Look were likely not even born yet. His influence, along with others like Kraftwerk, however subtle can be heard in their fashinable full length self-titled debut. In the case of New Look, musical references from the past equals the perfect vehicle for fashion.

It’s not everyday that fashion models make great pop music. The last true instance of that phenomon was made famous by Grace Jones. Since then there have been quite a few celeberties like Carmen Electra or Jennifer Lopez who have been all over the place where music, film and fashion are concerned. In more recent times there have been very few if any proper fashion stars with international street cred that have rocked the mic in the same way Grace Jones once did. That’s until New Look came along.

While they lack the drama and presence of Grace Jones, New Look seems to take its music more seriously than any of the recent media queens turned pop star. The duo is made up of the husband and wife team Adam Pavao and Sarah Ruba. Ruba works as a fashion model part time and spends most of her face time in New York and Europe.
With her husband, the couple is based in Toronto, Canada, one of the most American places not in America that you could be from. Toronto is close enough to America to know first hand what real R&B music sounds like from the people who started it. It no doubt was the biggest influence on New Look’s musical direction. The band’s influences however were much broader than any trips to the ghetto, as European club culture played a big part also.

After releasing an EP in 2008 called Hows My Hair?, the two would get together again to record their first full length self titled album in Berlin. The German influence may have resulted in a kind of simple ’80s styled electronica reminiscent of Kraftwerk or Vicent Clarke. New Look was able to mix contemporary styles like electronica, dubstep and R&B into simple synth driven club pop.

New Look’s approach to this hybrid sound is much different that that of James Blake or How To Dress Well. When Ruba’s vocal style emulates that of soul, its countered with a calculated cool I usually associate with English blue eyed soul. Its as if she were holding something back either on purpose or by vocal limitations. Imagine Jessie Ware with less emotion.

While many of New Looks songs are cold sounding by nature of the synth heavy melodies, there is a warmth in Ruba’s voice to counter it. The writing credits are equally split between the pair while Ravao is responsible for most of the arrangements and a great deal of the instrument playing. In the case of Pavao, that amounts to various keyboards and drum machines.

New Look is pleasant sounding and does not stray too far from the simple melodies and repetitions heard on songs like “Numbers”. The mostly mid-tempo collection of songs are perfect for fashion shows. Even the few uptempo tracks like “So Real” have a restraint about them, as if the duo were careful not to break a sweat for the camera.

The cool demeanor of New Look is perfect for the band’s target market of stylish world savvy people. In fact it would not be a stretch to hear any number of songs from New Look as musical backgrounds of one of the many fashion events Ruba has attended or worked.

The band apparently keeps a heavy touring schedule and has generated buzz in the stylish circles that they inhibit. With appearances in Vouge magazine and other media outlets, its a wonder that more people don’t know about the band. The alternative R&B category seems to be dominated by just a few names, but could certainly benefit from the teutonic cool that New Look brings to the table.

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