Georgia – ‘Georgia’

Ex-footballer and drummer-for-hire cooks up a fascinating debut album that transcends its roots in the grime movement

More than a decade after its first wave, grime continues to extend its tentacles further and deeper into the musical mainstream. The latest example is 21-year-old Londoner Georgia Barnes (or GEoRGiA, to give her name its proper stylisation), whose self-titled debut – a mix of inventive electro-futurism, propulsive tribal rhythms and singer-songwriterly intimacy – announces the arrival of a new post-grime pop auteur.

Barnes – the daughter of Leftfield’s Neil Barnes – was formerly on the books of QPR and Arsenal Ladies and the sometime drummer with the likes of Kwes and Kate Tempest. She wrote and recorded every note of ‘Georgia’ in her home studio. It’s the kind of record that could quite easily have ended up being another piece of bloodless Mercury-bait, but instead, she’s created something fresh, bold and infectious. Take ‘Kombine’, for example, which adopts a literal approach to its title, meshing a Pakistani Qawwali mixtape given to Barnes by a taxi driver with feverish, frenetic beats to create something wonderfully idiosyncratic, while lead single ‘Move Systems’ is a pounding, percussive ode to dealers named Sheila, life on the fringes of “the system” and London itself.

Amid the jumble of sounds and styles, however, it’s the Oneohtrix Point Never-inspired ‘Heart Wrecking Animals’ which provides the standout moment. Its sparse, uncluttered production leaves lots of empty spaces, and its lyrics (”We could be more than just good friends/We could be anything if we really tried”) reveal a void of a more emotional nature. Yet while relationships might be one of the big themes here, ‘Georgia’ never slides into overly-mawkish or maudlin territory: when she sings “This could be something, or nothing” on the sleek, Fever Ray-tinged ‘Nothing Solutions’, the inference is that she can take it or leave it. ‘Feisty’ always seems a slightly condescending adjective to apply to female artists, but in Barnes’ case, the shoe most certainly fits. She might be lacking an obvious crossover hit, but you get the sense that those will arrive sooner rather than later; in the meantime, ‘Georgia’ has something far more valuable: bleeding-edge vitality.