The second album is usually the most difficult of any recording artist’s career. AlunaGeorge’s 2012 debut, Body Music, was an overweighted album of 19 tracks, some of which should never have seen the light of day. Thankfully, AlunaGeorge has stripped this back to 14 for follow-up I Remember, though it still feels a little clogged up. But, like Body Music, I Remember contains more hits than misses.
Album opener ‘Full Swing’ is a moody, subdued affair that features Pell (who? Exactly). I’m not quite sure why he’s here; he isn’t needed. Whilst ‘Full Swing’ is rather forgettable, Pell’s feature renders it completely unnecessary. So far, things aren’t looking good, are they?
But then come the hits.
ZHU features on ‘My Blood’, helping to produce another moody song. These aren’t beats one would expect from ZHU, who usually deals with heavy house trappings, but the melancholy air suits Aluna Francis’ vocal exceptionally well – especially in the rousing chorus. ‘Mean What I Mean’, meanwhile, enlists the help of rappers Leikeli47 and Dreezy to produce a thumping jam that I’ve had on my going-out playlist for the past month. It’s THAT good. The big beats here are the sound that most suits Aluna. It’s house, almost, in the vein of Major Lazer’s recent tropical vibe, and rappers Leikeli47 and Dreezy add to the track rather than redact.
‘Jealous’ is a big middle finger to someone who’s pissed off Aluna, all over tumbling beats that help keep the party in full swing. And the dancehall vibes of ‘I’m in Control’ help secure AlunaGeorge’s place in the music scene as they move away from perhaps their only truly big song to date – Disclosure’s ‘White Noise’. Aluna has an exceptional voice that more and more producers are thankfully latching onto; it lends itself well to the house vibes of Disclosure and Jack Ü.
‘Not Above Love’ features a breathy vocal over deep and dramatic percussion that truly is one of the highlights of I Remember. It’s addictive, even though it follows the moody vibe that is prevalent through this record, and it’s begging to be remixed into a more positive-sounding track. ‘I don’t usually overdose / But you’re a drug that I had to take,’ Aluna sings over the opening of the second verse, conjuring a striking image that only serves to amp up the dramatic elements of ‘Not Above Love’.
Title track ‘I Remember’, co-produced by Flume, requires several listens to really appreciate how exceptional it is. On first listen it would be easy to press skip. As expected, it’s another moody affair, but it’s emotional: ‘I wanna feel like it’s the first night / I wanna meet you for the first time / I remember, I remember, I remember your smile / When your face lit up and it felt so right.’ If that doesn’t tug at your heartstrings you must have a heart of stone, because finally AlunaGeorge are doing something right here.
‘Hold Your Head High’ may just be the standout track. The lyrics are ambivalent, with metaphors of the weather meaning Aluna’s stance in a newly formed relationship (I think), but Aluna has never sounded better, and neither has George, really. I think this quite possibly could be their greatest song to date. THIS song should have been promoted and promoted before the release of I Remember: it has the potential to be a HIT. But the time has most likely passed for that now.
The rest of the tracks are forgettable. ‘Mediator’ sounds fairytale-esque with twinkling beats and sweet lyrics, but it fizzles out unremarkably. ‘Heartbreak Horizon’ is heavy on military beats, and it has a big chorus, but it’s hidden amongst terrible songs meaning that it gets swallowed up too. And ‘Wanderlust’ is just terrible.
Two albums in and AlunaGeorge are still striving to find a sound that suits them. Maybe third time’s a charm? If they had stripped back the forgettable songs from both records, they would have a stunning combined album, but with those tracks added to the mix everything is left a little bewildering. I Remember is a hard listen, for all the wrong reasons.
Tracks to download: ‘Hold Your Head High’, ‘Mean What I Mean’, ‘I Remember’, ‘I’m in Control’.