NAO - "In the Morning" (Singles Going Steady)

Over spacious, off-center beats, NAO creates a lush, lunar atmosphere for her powerful, intimate lyrics.

Paul Carr: Breaking up is hard to do, but for NAO it is the only way to spare a lover from the pain of a failing relationship. Over spacious, off-center beats, NAO creates a lush, lunar atmosphere for her powerful, intimate lyrics. She sounds torn, filled with self-doubt but her hesitancy slowly gives way to the cold hard realization of the inevitable. In this way, it feels like peeking into her diary as she wrestles with her decision. "In the Morning" is a thoughtful exploration of the fragility of relationships. [8/10]

Andrew Paschal: These are always the worst kinds of breakups, aren't they? On this cut from last year's For All We Know, Neo Jessica Joshua does justice to the misery of leaving a devoted lover with whom you've nonetheless fallen out of love. Twitching fits of anxious, contorted moans undergird Joshua's unique and soulful vocals, over a beat that keeps the track moving forward with an urgency beyond self-pity. "In the Morning" captures a psychological moment that, in real time, could just as easily span a few seconds or a few hours. Joshua's dismay is total, but her sturdy resolve comes through most clearly of all. [7/10]

Mike Schiller: NAO's latest is a slow-burn in every sense. It takes a while to get off the ground, all menacing synths pushed to the background and conflicted words on the way to a painful morning after, but by the end, the ever-building beat is exploding into noise, and presumably the conflicted thoughts have turned to violent action. The video is just as painful, as we see a visual manifestation of the pain caused by the pushing away of NAO's suitor. It's tough to watch but awfully rewarding. [7/10]

Adriane Pontecorvo: NAO has a singular ability to sound simultaneously delicate and powerful. On “In the Morning”, she demonstrates this, maximizing both aspects of her voice and creating a tremendous emotional impact. She performs rather than sings, telling a whole story with both the content and the style of her words, sounding tormented, broken, tearful. The production isn’t quite as pitch-perfect, with overheating synths threatening to drown out the vocals that make this song resonate so well. In spite of the noise, NAO’s soulful delivery wins out, in the end, rising and falling with artful precision. [7/10]

Chris Ingalls: On the surface, it's an almost deceptively pop/R&B song, but the contemporary production touches are amazing and give the song an additional boost. Like a lot of NAO's music, it has an urgent, anthemic feel. And then there's that voice. [8/10]

Steve Horowitz: NAO’s voice possesses an ethereal quality that floats above the song’s atmospherics to create something tender even when the lyrics suggest she’s being cruel. The musical accompaniment suffers from too much noise. This would work better as an acapella track. NAO’s presence can get lost in the mix when it is the best thing here. Let her sing! [7/10]

SCORE: 7.34





David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.


David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.


Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".


Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.


The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.


Landowner's 'Consultant' Is OCD-Post-Punk With Obsessive Precision

Landowner's Consultant has all the energy of a punk-rock record but none of the distorted power chords.


NYFF: 'American Utopia' Sets a Glorious Tone for Our Difficult Times

Spike Lee's crisp concert film of David Byrne's Broadway show, American Utopia, embraces the hopes and anxieties of the present moment.


South Africa's Phelimuncasi Thrill with Their Gqom Beats on '2013-2019'

A new Phelimuncasi anthology from Nyege Nyege Tapes introduces listeners to gqom and the dancefloors of Durban, South Africa.


Wolf Parade's 'Apologies to the Queen Mary' Turns 15

Wolf Parade's debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, is an indie rock classic. It's a testament to how creative, vital, and exciting the indie rock scene felt in the 2000s.


Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.


Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.


Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.


Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.


Sufjan Stevens' 'The Ascension' Is Mostly Captivating

Even though Sufjan Stevens' The Ascension is sometimes too formulaic or trivial to linger, it's still a very good, enjoyable effort.

Jordan Blum

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.