"A beautiful, succinct record that's as perfect as it is imperfect."
"'Farewell, Starlite!' feels like a body of work by a born-again artist."
You hear the term 'all killer, no filler' thrown around a lot in music - mostly by pop artists trying to promote an album rather than four singles and a bunch of filler - but rarely is it a feat that's achieved. Each year though there are a handful of pop-tinged records that do achieve it. Last year CHVRCHES nailed their shimmering, anthemic second record The Bones Of What You Believe In and Carly Rae Jepsen surprisingly delivered E.MO.TION which was basically just 12 bonafide hits. AlunaGeorge's second album I Remember sits in a more electronic realm but it succeeds in delivering the same thing. From start to finish, there's not one track you couldn't pluck as a single.
On paper I Remember shouldn't cohesively work as a full project. Each song is a huge, festival-ready anthem and the list of collaborators is overwhelmingly stacked - Flume, ZHU, Yogu and Rock Mafia all have production credits along a host of others. It could be a case of too many cooks in the kitchen but it's not. AlunaGeorge's own style in Aluna's silky voice and George's slinky beats is so strong that the record stitches together perfectly despite an abundance of styles from dancehall (I'm In Control) to deep house (In My Head).
"I'm ready for anything, so let me hear the bell ring, light it up," Aluna sings on opener Full Swing, lifting the album off the ground with blaring horns and a firing bar by Pell. Interestingly for an album so full of bangers, the pace of the album is slow to begin with. My Blood is brooding and smokey and Not Above Love is an island-flavoured, attitude-filled slow-burner. It's not until Hold Your Head High that the dancefloor stompers begin. And once the flood gates have opened they don't close.
Hold Your Head High is electro-pop at its absolute best with Aluna slinking around the verses before it ascends into a colourful, Major Lazer-flavoured drop. From that point onwards there are drops aplenty. Mean What I Mean howls with a dancefloor-tinged break and Jealous gets tropical with its drop. Sure, these kind of drops are very 2016 but none of this feels copied and pasted. The formula is switched up on every track and each song bleeds personality unlike some of the more monotonous material on DJ Snake's debut Encore, released just a few weeks ago.
Aluna has a feel for melody on each song that adds a certain depth and stops each song from simply being just for dancefloor consumption. Hold Your Head High's verse is smoother than most we've heard this year and the title track wafts with nostalgia and melancholy, adding emotional weight bereft from most Flume productions. First single I'm In Control would've been a stomper even without vocals thanks to its Caribbean vibes but Aluna tackles the melody with a sneaky sensuality that makes it irresistible.
If you're going to deliver an album packed full of bangers, you've got to introduce light and shade somehow and the duo give us that in the latter half of the record. The title track is a beautiful, sprawling piece and even the deep house-centred In My Head has a certain relaxed nature to its movement. The most down-beat moment comes in the form of Mediator - a soulful tale about Aluna guiding a friend's relationship woes.
Even still, one of the record's biggest moments comes at track 11, Heartbreak Horizons. Aluna sounds vocally grander and George goes big with horns and racing hand claps, delivering an unexpected triumph in the album's dying moments. Heck, even the closer Wanderlust is a big, beautiful anthem. Everytime you expect the album's energy to dip it doesn't and while you can go ahead and criticise I Remember for being too trendy, you're kidding yourself if you're not entertained from start to finish. So many artists that used to deliver dancefloor stompers, namely Beyoncé and Rihanna, have delivered serious, powerful and great records but it's great to know there are still artists around focussing on danceable records that pack a bunch.
Alongside Kaytranada's 99% which AlunaGeorge feature on, this is the best dance/pop record of the year.
"'Close Eyes to Exit' once again holds volume that could easily have Klangstof mistaken for a veteran of the genre."
A fast reaction to Bon Iver's experimental new record so you don't have to listen to the dodgy live recording.