George Riley Gives Us an Infectious Taste of Freedom With 'Running In Waves'

One of this year’s most memorable albums yet comes from a name you may not be familiar with. Though it’s only been a year since West London native George Riley released her initial mixtape, interest rates, a tape, she’s already signed with indie label PLZ Make It Ruins (ARTHUR, John Glacier, OTTO), helmed by Frank Ocean collaborator and fellow UK artist Vegyn, and celebrated the release of her sophomore album, Running In Waves, just last week. The polished and otherworldly project follows several teaser singles as well as a feature on British DJ Anz’s bouncy and bubbly dance track, “You Could Be.” 

While she grew up singing and performing at local venues in London, Riley followed an intellectual path as opposed to a musical one as she got older, telling CRACK magazine that the choice came naturally for her with a father working as a senior lecturer at the University of Westminster. Even as she began studying at the University of Leeds, though, she continued to use music as an emotional and creative outlet, releasing her first single “HERstory” in 2019 and following up with two more in 2020 — “Move” and “TRIXXX.” Too experimental to pin down with just one genre, she tackled subjects like social media, race, and the climate crisis in 2021, solidifying her innovative style with her debut mixtape, interest rates, a tape.

A year later, Riley is back with Running In Waves, a sophomore effort that recalls everything from cool jazz to Solange. In it, Riley delivers a lush and eclectic sound, courtesy of her sultry and versatile vocals and dynamic production choices from Vegyn. As the album’s sole producer, it’s hard not to notice his signature electronica fingerprints, and he finds a way of melding unexpected rhythms with full-bodied instrumentation, whether it's orchestral arrangements, smooth bass lines, or percussive beats layered atop waves of synths. It’s no wonder his name is found on albums from Aminé, Travis Scott, and JPEGMAFIA, and that his production credits are listed on Frank Ocean’s Blonde and Endless

Now, his collaboration with Riley on Running In Waves has resulted in a record that elevates Riley’s floating vocals to new heights, all while grounding it with textured and futuristic soundscapes. Meditative lyrics provide a glimpse into an emotional arc of self-growth, and over the course of eight tracks, Riley takes us with her on the road to self-acceptance, unafraid of sharing the moments of grittiness and self-doubt that paved it. Between contemplative introspections and declarations of liberating self-trust, she gives us a taste of the freedom that comes with buckling up and sprinting headfirst towards your dreams, no matter how daunting.

It’s safe to say that Riley is taking the time to reflect on her past while keeping her eyes focused on her future. No doubt about it, Riley is heading in only one direction: forward. 

Listen to Running In Waves below:

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