Yuna, Nocturnal

Barry Walters

By Barry Walters

on 10.30.13 in Reviews



Yuna may hail from Malaysia, but she’s exceptionally well connected: The woman known to her parents as Yunalis Mat Zara’ai collaborated with Pharrell on “Live Your Life” — a low-key but lovely inspirational beat ballad — for last year’s eponymous international debut album. For this sequel, she hooks up with the other Neptune, Chad Hugo, on “Someone Who Can,” which adroitly shifts back and forth between singer-songwriter musings and string-driven disco. She’s like a Suzanne Vega who doesn’t need a remix.

Like a Suzanna Vega who doesn’t need a remix

Soft-voiced and gently sensual, Yuna is a particularly apt match for Rhye’s Robin Hannibal, who drops by to offer his characteristic blend of satiny-sleek boudoir R&B with jazzy club rhythms: “Falling” boasts swooning strings and a percolating marimba hook, while “Lights and Camera” combines twinkling electronic shimmers with dark chamber drama that reflects Yuna’s own yin/yang combo of fizzy lightness and well-disciplined delivery. The rest doesn’t drop off as steeply as you might expect: Nocturnal offers the catchiness and clarity of driving daytime pop, but with a more thoughtful, less exhibitionistic core. Yuna doesn’t over-share or desperately dramatize, but as her Afrobeat-tinged “Rescue” suggests, there’s resolve behind her gentility. She shouts with a whisper.