It's hard to talk about the year we've had without feeling sincerely sick about it. It's difficult to reflect on things that aren't quite over yet. But still, we try. Perhaps it's in an attempt to gain insight, or perspective, or just a little peace, that the conversation is steadfast, centred around the political headlines, social justice hashtags and scandalous retweets in a 24-hour news cycle. We are consumed. So where then, in a year positioned around mania, do we find our bliss?

Bliss is different than happiness in the way it's uplifting and unburdening. In the way that not only our minds, but our souls are categorically soothed. It's as if 28-year-old East London-based neo-soul talent NAO knew that's what was missing from the draining year when she began to piece together her 18-track debut soul opus For All We Know, a generous full length introduction to one of the most healing vocals and optimistic sonic narratives currently in rotation. And with a musical past (consisting of vocal coaching, back-up singing and a history of ghostwriting,) it's as if NAO has been preparing her whole life for this moment, with this purpose. For all we know, that was the plan: escapist R&B.

NAO's voice is a sonic embrace; a velvety emotionally-textured lullaby that strokes your eardrum like a sweet secret. Honeyed and seductive, but always pure. Contrasted with maximalist production swells, (largely constructed by the colourful artist, alongside frequent collaborator GRADES,) NAO blends electronic climaxes with soulful opulence, merging them into a spirited union she's designated as "wonky funk." But despite obvious musical influence from R&B's spectral past (hear Maxwell-inspired coos on 'In The Morning') and obvious interest in it's sonic future (the genre-infusing resiliency of 'Girlfriend'), NAO's creative purpose is in the present. Wonky funk is called for now.

Rippling basslines and orchestral synths are one thing but it's the emotional nuance that matters most. NAO approaches what seems like rudimentary love songs with the same honesty and optimism we need to face our own unrest. When the thematic project loops away from the romantic thrills of 'Get To Know Ya' and 'Adore You,' NAO never loses her buoyancy or emotional intelligence. Heartbreak anthems like 'Bad Blood' and 'Fool To Love,' although solemn, are rooted in knowledge and closure, as the siren-like vocalist quite poignantly chooses pleasure over pain. She sees the good in things, even when they may be hiding from our own pessimism and ego. "I choose for the rain not to fall, exposing the sun on you," she sings on the project's first single. It isn't a distraction from strife, it's just a change in perspective.

The anti-pop protagonist has offered an enchanting pop fantasy to play in with For All We Know. When the walls seem to be crumbling, she dodges them with vocal acrobatics and surging production. As we look forward to a happier time, less insufferable, NAO shares a bit of bliss in her coming-out party as one of R&B’s most promising young dominants.