Friday, September 16, 2016

I Remember | AlunaGeorge

Upon their entrance to the industry in 2012, Aluna Francis and George Reid were the quirky cousins of electronic pop music. With their chunky club beats and slew of influences, the two were the haughty alterna-man's answer to pop music. Reid has since taken to seclusion, contributing only to production value and leaving Francis to brunt most of the touring and promotional manpower behind the AlunaGeorge moniker, but the duo's second album shows signs that they have only grown stronger – and closer to the heart of the genre they once side-stepped.

Whereas Body Music dipped its toes into the pool of mainstream pop, I Remember dives headfirst. Gliding through their stew of influences, Francis and Reid have their sights split between a good time and experimentation through downtempo rhythm and blues, warm tropical house, and most often, bonafide pop disguised as banging electronic dance. Meanwhile, the range of Francis' voice, once employed as just an immature, childlike pout, is tested. Her tone has matured ever so slightly through some stronger support as she's thrown into these new environments.

At the time of its release, the lead single from the set, "I'm in Control," seemed like AlunaGeorge's most ballsy move yet: alienating those fans who revel in viral oddity pop, they jumped aboard the tropical house trend after finding sudden overnight success Stateside with the DJ Snake re-work of "You Know You Like It." While the track didn't replicate American (or British, for that matter) radio success as it should have, the full album now reveals that "Control," though representative of the sleek, polished finish throughout, might be one of the safer tracks of the era.

"Mediator" and "Not Above Love" are perhaps their most experimental, both clutched onto rhythm and blues with all their might. "Heartbreak Horizon" pulls some horns and deep drums out of left field, making for a (strangely successful) marching-band-meet-club-banger aesthetic. But on more expected fronts, "Mean What I Mean" jumps into a full sugar rush, as Francis plays it cool over some pulsating beats before featured rappers Dreezy and Leikeli47 rip into their respective verses, and "Hold Your Head High" and "Jealous" get their kicks from trendy altered-vocal patterns.

In many respects, the twelve tracks of I Remember have rendered the duo's debut material, which was at one point deemed "futuristic pop," damn near obsolete. Is the material here a bit trend-chasing? Perhaps; by and large, the album is a prepackaged party. But it's executed with gusto, swinging smoothly from style to style without losing touch of home base. It's clear that the two halves of AlunaGeorge have grown exponentially – Francis as a vocalist, songwriter, and lyricist; Reid as a songwriter and producer – since we last heard from them, and this album is nothing if not proof of that.

I Remember is out now under Interscope Records.

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