AlunaGeorge were considered a breath of fresh air when they started making waves at the back end of 2012, especially compared to the largely homogenous and uninspired pop dominating the charts. As a result, it was not long before the electropop duo were being shortlisted on pretty much every ‘ones-to-watch’ list going, including nominations for the Critics’ Choice at the 2013 BRIT Awards and the BBC’s Sound of… poll for the same year.
The London pair, made up of Aluna Francis (vocals and songwriting) and George Reid (everything else), missed out on the top prize in both cases – inexplicably finishing behind Tom Odell at the BRITs after coming second in the BBC’s standings. Yet the recognition opened the door to a new audience and further success thanks to their high profile collaboration with Disclosure on hit single White Noise.
Several months of hype were eventually followed by the release of AlunaGeorge’s debut, Body Music, which was generally well received by critics. It was by no means a unanimous success, but with singles as innately infectious as You Know You Like It and Attracting Flies, they managed to live up to expectations. So it should be of no surprise that their follow-up record, I Remember, is more or less an extension of their debut.
Take lead single I’m In Control, which is instantly recognisable as an AlunaGeorge track. Francis’ child-like vocals remain as distinctive as ever, while Reid’s stuttering, dance-inflected beat is irresistible. It is assisted by a welcome turn from Jamaican artist Popcaan, who manages to inject a sense of fun during his brief cameo – just as he did when contributing to Jamie xx’s I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times) last year.
In fact, guests play a significant role throughout I Remember – which has often been the case during AlunaGeorge’s short career. Album opener Full Swing features a verse from American rapper Pell that complements its slick, R&B-inspired hook and positive message, while producer Zhu works his magic on the sensual My Blood. Rather than being tacked on, these collaborations only serve to enhance the listening experience.
The album’s title track is another where AlunaGeorge call on their friends, reuniting the pair with producer Flume for a beautifully soulful electro jam that relies almost exclusively on a quavering synth beat and Francis’ chopped up vocals. It is followed by the equally beguiling In My Head, a slow burner complete with dramatic, lunging synth strings, while Heartbreak Horizon is among the boldest compositions on the record.
Yet it is when AlunaGeorge explore their mutual fondness for the classic R&B sounds – Reid has previously cited The Neptunes as an inspiration – that the record really soars. Not About Love, in particular, possesses many of the trademarks of the genre, including a strutting beat that is vaguely reminiscent of Blu Cantrell’s Breathe. Then there’s highly addictive Jealous, with its looping hook and repetitive lyrics making it memorable.
For all the experiments that pay off, there are a few that don’t quite work. The chief offender is Mediator, where the duo ditch their electronics in favour of live drums, bass and guitar. It is an unconvincing and, ultimately, forgettable addition to the record, while closer Wanderlust feels a little bit anticlimactic given what has gone before. Thankfully, these missteps are few and far between on I Remember.
Instead, the record is a confident and accomplished comeback from AlunaGeorge – a point hammered home by the excellent Mean What I Mean, which sees up-and-coming MCs Dreezy and Leikeli47 join the pair on a track packed full of bristling attitude. In lesser hands, the sheer number of collaborations on I Remember could have spelled trouble, but AlunaGeorge are no ordinary band. They are so much better than that.