Francis and the Lights
It’ll Be Better
Released by Cantora Records
The opening bars on It’ll Be Better, the studio debut of New York City band Francis and the Lights, play like a down home pastoral, all plucky guitars and mooning vocals. It’s a title track to be sure; something you remember about the band after the rest of the record fades into the depths of memory. But it’s also memorable because it’s one of the best songs on the eight-track album. Opening with your best is a gutsy move that’ll work if you pad the rest of the album with beefier, weightier tracks that linger.
However Francis and the Lights, a Wesleyan University-formed band currently on tour opening for Drake, lose their wind after their introductory sucker punch. The majority of the record is swathed in the kind of obviously curated charm that rappers are too often overly impressed by. That is, while the songs themselves show study and care, it’s kind of like the output of an overzealous music student eager to conquer a storied pastiche. The problem is that there are moments of disingenuousness. I’m not sure if it’s singer Francis Farewell Starlite’s clucky intonation (”Knees To The Floor”), the borderline-blue eyed soul wailing over 80s R&B synths (”For Days”) or the overly precious lyrics (”Tap The Phone”).
I’ve waded into hater waters, but that wasn’t my intention. This album, with it’s attention to detail could very well climb into comfortable territory with repeat listens. Earnestly sung lyrics in the vein of Jack Johnson or John Mayer, 80s-style instrumentation (percussion, guitar licks, synths), and constant rhythmic switch-ups are elegantly crafted. This album isn’t boring, it’s just too polished for the raw sounds and styles it draws influence from.