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Georgia - Seeking Thrills Music Album Reviews

The second album written, produced, and performed by Georgia Barnes is the work of a budding pop mind finding her own space on the dancefloor.

From behind a set of cherry-red drum pads, Georgia opened a small show in Brooklyn this past October with the announcement that, just that day, she’d met a personal hero: Sheila E., the iconic drummer, singer, and Prince collaborator. There are famous women drummers, but few who are songwriters, producers, headlining performers, and pop stars, too. Perhaps that’s why Seeking Thrills, the new album from 29-year-old British musician Georgia Barnes, sounds so fresh and exploratory: She’s not working from any real blueprint. Though it’s her second record, Seeking Thrills has the ascendent energy of an audition tape; brighter and less tentative than her self-titled 2015 debut, even its awkward moments convey earnest, self-taught sincerity.


As the daughter of Neil Barnes from the ’90s UK electronic duo Leftfield, Georgia grew up surrounded by her father’s collection of electronic and international records and developed an early love of pop and hip-hop, particularly Missy Elliott. She later became a London session drummer, performing alongside acts like Kate Tempest and Kwes. Seeking Thrills builds from all these interests simultaneously, foregrounding Georgia’s voice and fusing the rattling beats of her debut with the familiar neon warmth of Chicago and Detroit house. On opening track “Started Out,” a slinky house-pop firestarter with the enigmatic hook, “We are wicked young fools who behave now,” the combination is magnetic.

To write the new album, Georgia holed up in her home studio, studying a personal pantheon of great songwriters: Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Kate Bush. She’s estimated that it took a year and a half worth of study to unlock her own abilities. A finished version of Seeking Thrills was ready in spring 2019, but early last year, after “Started Out” landed in rotation at BBC Radio 1, she happily delayed it. Fully half of the album’s songs were released as singles, from “Feel It” in 2017 to the most recent, “24 Hours,” just this week. The promotional advantages are self-evident, though the outcome is frustrating: The album front-loads its two best songs, “Started Out” and the twisty “About Work the Dancefloor,” and nothing thereafter packs quite the same punch.

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In this way, some of the same things that allow Seeking Thrills to feel like an edition-of-one discovery can also come across choppy or scattered. “Ray Guns” still sounds like castoff M.I.A., a frequent point of comparison for Georgia’s debut. It’s not that her time in the studio didn’t pay off—the new album has better hooks, bigger personality, and a radiant optimism that her older material can’t match. But learning to write isn’t the kind of job you finish. Some of these lyrics are paper-thin, and Georgia doesn’t always have the range to give them more dimension. “Mellow” makes the disparity clear: South London singer Shygirl’s verse is sultry and stylish, but Georgia dominates the song with reference-track stiltedness. Lines that ought to sound effortless—“Keepin’ real/Never spill/And I’m gonna get it/From the spigot”—instead land with a thud.

Yet Georgia is coming into her own as a singer: She handles the deep-water affirmation grooves “Till I Own It” and “Ultimate Sailor,” two of the most rewarding album cuts, with a husky pop style indebted to Robyn. “Started Out” is still the strongest song here, but this wasn’t supposed to be an album of floor-fillers. It’s better suited to a house party, or as the soundtrack to a private “Dancing on My Own” moment (the very Girls scene Georgia watched just before writing “About Work the Dancefloor”). Even when it’s clumsy, Seeking Thrills never feels manufactured. It’s a passion project, a result of trial and error, the singular product of someone learning to write for her own voice.


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