Georgia has a fundamental problem, she is called Georgia. Like any reviewer chancing upon a new artist for the first time, I like to do a degree of homework and research their background in a bid to appear vaguely knowledgeable and to provide context for the review. I am acutely aware that any artist who has their roots set deep in the grime scene likes to adopt an air of mystery and intrigue but that really doesn’t help when I’m desperately looking for something to hang my prejudices on after a hard day in the office.
Typing ‘Georgia’ into Google isn’t going to return the same bounty as if you had entered ‘Ozric Tentacles’, for example. No, instead you are left to wade through a plethora of information regarding the ex-Soviet country (currency is the Lari just in case you were wondering) or the US state who name the ‘Knobbed Whelk’ as one of its state symbols. Never let it be said that my reviews aren’t an education. Even using her stylistically amended title, GEoRGia, doesn’t help because that’s not how search engines operate! In short, whoever is responsible for running her website has some pretty stiff opposition; Georgia isn’t about to get noticed on her name alone.
But perhaps there’s method to her perceived madness. Thanks to the technological life-saver that is Ask Jeeves I now know that our heroine is actually Georgia Barnes, the daughter of Neil Barnes, the brains behind Leftfield. The music industry is awash with nepotistic opportunity and maybe there is a plan afoot here to resist the temptation to get a leg-up from her old man and stand/fall on her own terms. The big question is, can she?
Yeah, she can. No problem.
There are multiple influences at play throughout ‘Georgia’ and I’m struggling to name a single one adequately. This is a journey through the darker, wilder and edgier parts of the pop spectrum. The album starts and you think 10cc are about to launch into ‘I’m Not In Love’ before a series of child-like voices shout ‘Georgia’ just to make sure you know it’s not the latest Foo Fighters release. Then it’s straight into a Middle Eastern call to prayer chopped in half by cheese wire synths before the young lady herself soothes the nerves with some picture book pop and then unnervingly bawls “I’m gonna get the wrong boy/But I’m a get you back”…and that’s all in the first 45 seconds.
That pretty much sums up what is to follow, no two tracks are the same and although there are so many changes in gear and tempo the album never feels claustrophobic. Actually, it feels astoundingly sparse but never cold. This may be electronica but Georgia has something to say. She isn’t a shouter, “you’re making me the enemy” she smoothly croons in a rather sadistic voice which makes me concerned for the future well-being of whoever has upset her. This isn’t a pop princess, it’s a woman who knows her own mind and now wants you to know it too.
‘Digits’ is haunting and troubling, a bookmark resurrected from the past, a partial memory of something I used to love but can’t quite place. ‘You’ is part stylophone, part Kate Bush and it takes a brave artist to marry those two concepts together. ‘GMTL’ is further evidence of her restraint, threatening to occasionally spill over into 80s synth pop cheese but opting instead for the ethereal waters of The XX. Yes, I appreciate this isn’t helping you a great deal but it’s not often I am left genuinely bewildered by a new artist.
The two high points on her debut release couldn’t offer a greater juxtaposition or demonstration of the breadth of her talent. ‘Heart Wrecking Animals’ finds Georgia in a reflective mood, dissecting a failed relationship and idly wondering what might have been. It provides a unique moment of respite and its simplicity jars slightly given the effervescence of the rest of her material. But it offers a reminder that this is a young girl just finding her way in the world and she remains as vulnerable and confused as the rest of us.
The counterpoint to her melancholia is ‘Move Systems’, an MIA inspired descent into drum-battered madness. It is quite simply, brilliant. Three minutes thirty one seconds of youthful exuberance distilled into a percussive mantra, interspersed with some electro-warbling, this girl has an eye for the artfully unusual. It certainly makes me wary about heading into the darker recesses of London. Rarely, has the Jekyll and Hyde nature of an artist’s character been so entertaining yet threatening.
Much of ‘Georgia’ feels like an experiment – as she says herself “this could be something/or nothing” but let me assure you, it’s certainly the former. A week ago I wasn’t aware of Georgia Barnes, now she is more relevant to me than the urbanisation of downtown Tbilisi.