Yuna LEAD

It’s no small secret that I’m fond of Yuna Zarai. The singer-songwriter-musician-fashionista’s new album on a new label dropped October 29th, and I decided to pop by Sonos Studio for the release party the day prior. Mainly I wanted to hear what the tracks from her new record sounded like performed live. Frequently, that’s how music is supposed to be heard.

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All photos by Tiger Tiger

Sonos Studio was filled up with fashionable young people. Well, full might be over selling it. There was plenty of space, but the place was pretty well populated by 20-something youths drawn to hear Yuna’s dulcet tones. Mostly it was young women, but not entirely, which wasn’t so surprising; the singer’s audience is primarily female. Heck, the lead single “Rescue” is the definition of a girl-power anthem. Sometimes dudes get thrown off by that. My faith in my generation was restored slightly by how mixed the crowd was and how happy everyone seemed to be there. Also, there was free beer. That might have had something to do with it.

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KCRW DJ Anthony Valdez did a little 10-minute Q&A with Yuna about the new album before she took the stage. They talked about what it was like coming to Los Angeles, working with new people, and producing the new album on Verve Records (both the Decorate EP and Yuna’s self-titled debut were released under the Fader label), and she mentioned that working with a variety of producers on this last record was a little like going on multiple blind dates.

You can kind of understand what she means when giving Nocturnal a listen. Yuna’s voice is consistently hers, but the music is actually quite varied. Tracks like “I Wanna Go,” “Rescue,” and “Come Back” are straight ahead, light, infectious pop songs. I’ll be AMAZED if the whistling ditty from “Come Back” doesn’t wind up in Target commercial before spring time. Other songs, though, take Yuna’s voice in a new different direction. The tracks “Falling” and “Someone Who Can” put her voice to music you can dance to.

In fact, the entire record moves away from the guitar-driven sound of Yuna into one that is much more produced. It’s not like they raked her voice through autotune and put it over 808s or anything, but each song has its own personality. There’s a lot of variety in here, which is great because Yuna is quite versatile. I’m a sucker for R&B, so a song like “I Want You Back” kind of caught me off guard with that sweet, sweet bassline.

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We got to hear a number of songs off the album for the first time in a largely acoustic setting, which is interesting as the record isn’t really acoustic by nature. It did sound fantastic live, though. I’m a proponent of the stripped-down sound she has in a live setting, so my opinion is biased. Still, if you feel the same way, I recommend it.

The new album is up on Spotify now if you want to give it a listen. Fans of Feist or Kimbra or even Lianne La Havas and Corinne Bailey Rae would do well to check her out.

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