Georgia follows up her well-received eponymous 2015 release four years later with a new collection of dancefloor-ready pop tunes. While her first album leaned into heavy influences of jagged post-punk, Georgia Barnes’ latest project, Seeking Thrills, sees the North West Londoner fully embracing her affinity for the underground club scenes – mainly the classic sounds of Chicago house and Detroit techno. “I was listening to the whole of Trax records, so Frankie Knuckles, Mr. Fingers, Marshall Jefferson and that whole scene, but also Detroit, like Underground Resistance, Jeff Mills, Kevin Saunderson,” she explains.
Her affection for the sounds of Chicago can be felt immediately through the muddy deep house groove of the album’s lead single “Started Out”. A stuttering synth bass pushes against stabbing keys while Barnes provides an infectious staccato hook in the chorus.
Second single, “About Work the Dancefloor” takes clear cues from the melancholic yet euphoric pop stylings of Robyn. Her passionate vocal performance is carried around sugary synths. It’s a high-reaching piece of near dance-pop perfection that has already earned multiple high profile remixes from The Black Madonna, Krystal Klear, and Gabe Gurnsey.
“Never Let You Go” is dedicated to Barnes’ brother and is the most reminiscent of her previous experimentation with post-punk. There is an element of industrial and acid that allows the track’s cataclysmic, arena-ready chorus to truly stand out. Next, “24 Hours” is eruptive with its oscillating drum machines and analog synths. Thematically, like much of the album, Barnes chooses to exist in a present moment in spite of outside anxieties or deep-rooted insecurities.
Momentum starts to stall beginning with “Mellow”. With pounding low end, the track exudes a heavy-handed trap influence. London-based singer and DJ Shygirl injects a fair amount of charisma into the track, but it is ultimately bogged down with its hollow lyrical moments. While Barnes’ desire to expand on her sonic diversity is admirable, this just feels too out of place in the track listing.
“Till I Own It” is a mid-energy ballad without any real peaks that puts the brakes on the record’s energy up to this point. “I Can’t Wait” is a more assertive, acid-tinted number. The more hardline edges of this track, unfortunately, do not take away from the rather pedestrian structure of the tune.
The album gains some of its magic back on the immensely fun “Feel It”. Barnes finds intriguing ways to layer in vocal samples for texture’s sake, leading into a propulsive climax. “Ultimate Sailor” is an effective respite with its sunny ambient techno approach.
“Ray Guns” is a departure from the norm for Barnes as she experiments with her interest in Balinese Gamelan. The fiery electro gradually builds throughout. It holds its own instrumentally, but Barnes’ clunky M.I.A. impression is simply too distracting.
“The Thrill” is an exercise in maximalism handled with care and nuance. It’s intricately crafted with a barrage of varying drum machines and quarrelling synths. The result is mesmerising and exciting. While slowing things down, “Honey Dripping Sky” is a proper send off for the album. With panning synth whirlwinds, the track invokes feelings of distance and celestial travel. It is a meditative and emotionally resonant conclusion.
While these tracks have been completed for quite some time now, Barnes has delayed its release with the intention of perfecting the mixing and production. She also wanted to give the singles time to really permeate into the consciousness of her fans. For the most part, the strategy seems to have paid off.
Getting sober after self-destructive periods of substance abuse and heavy drinking, Seeking Thrills is an album of personal redemption and liberation for Barnes. The dancefloor becomes a sanctuary for her. Georgia provides a fresh take on pop music that’s as indebted to Mr. Fingers as it is to Madonna. While the singles are remarkable and other highlights spectacular, there are some definite low points and periods of lull on Seeking Thrills – resulting in an uneven, front-loaded record.