Sarah Ruba and Adam Pavao, the husband-and-wife duo behind New Look, are the sort of stylish pair that you’d expect to see in the pages of glossy high-fashion magazines from Berlin. So it should be no surprise that Ruba is in fact a former model and that the couple recorded much of their self-titled debut album in Berlin where they are signed to !K7 (alongside labelmates Booka Shade, Erlend Øye). The album was put together over the course of three years, in which the band split time between Ruba’s modeling gigs and production stints in their native Ontario, and New York— which they now call home.
International jet-setting lifestyle aside, New Look makes the kind of effortless “future-pop” that seems at once categorically familiar, yet sufficiently nuanced to merit a second (or third, or fourth)
look listen. Pavao’s judiciously layered synths and sparse beats manage to conjure a sultry performance from Ruba often, placing her capable pipes at the fore of the track. At other moments it seems the effect is more about abstraction, playfully oscillating between snappy, lo-fi percussive arrangements and Ruba’s coy vocal teases. Basically it’s what I imagine a Leslie Feist / Junior Boys collaboration would sound like if it ever happened. (It probably won’t).
To be sure, there’s a bit of a nod to early ’90s-era pop, and freestyle r&b woven throughout their songs, momentarily recalling the likes of Shannon or Lisa Lisa with a dash of dubstep. Indeed, the vintage throwback is particularly salient when you consider the growing spectrum of similarly-focused acts such as College, Desire, and Chromatics, all of whom were featured on the excellent, 80′s-tinged Drive soundtrack. Genre-bending contemporaries Little Dragon also come to mind as an apt comparison, if not conceptually or thematically, then at the very least on the stylistic front. But despite the ostensibly crowding scene, New Look manages to craft a unique approach resulting in chic pop songs that are upbeat but not cloying, referential without being derivative, and eminently listenable on-repeat.
Check out the band’s wonderfully inventive video for “Nap on the Bow” at the top of the post, directed by Tim&Joe. And for our New York readers, catch the band live at Terminal 5 with The XX, tomorrow August 2nd.