Francis and the Lights | It’ll Be Better (Cantora)

Francis and the Lights broadcast an attractive, unwavering belief in the healing power of the radio, in songs as transmissions from a distant, like-minded soul.  

The title track’s easy, lived-in strum leads you to believe you’re in for an album of Ryan Adams inflected roots-pop. It’s a finely mellow album opener, one with an attention grabbing, slightly angular tilt. It’s also bit of a red herring. The very next song makes an immediate detour into It’ll Be Better‘s true heart.
Francis and the Lights’ bizarre, unique vibe leads you down into a freaky basement studio where earnest ’70s folkies jam with, and ultimately become subsumed by, the Fine Young Cannibals. Meanwhile, Francis Farewell Starlite sings in an alluring voice that’s best described as some sort of R&B Cat Stevens. Several tracks, including the infectious “In A Limousine,” add a strange yet welcome dose of ’80s Genesis’ synthy art-pop goodness with precious little of the attendant Phil Collins schlock.
If it all stopped there, you’d already have enough intrigue to last a long weekend. But there’s more. "Tap the Phone" is a slow jam swelling with icy synth blasts, a wonderfully Hall & Oates multi-tracked chorus and INXS-style frizzy, white boy lite funk. "Going Out" rides Steely Dan-from-the-future licks and jazz-rock jitters, and exudes a sweetly romantic, young man’s yearning for city lights and a cosmopolitan escape from the mundane.
“Darling, It’s Alright” oozes confidence but is never cocksure—the band is adept at blending arch cool and earnest vulnerability. A multitude of the album’s tracks burst with wry bits of humor and pathos. The lyrics are about ruling the here and now, but also longing for a change of scenery and finding comfort in shared heartbreak. This is the touching dichotomy at the core of It’ll Be Better.
Francis and the Lights broadcast an attractive, unwavering belief in the healing power of the radio, in songs as transmissions from a distant, like-minded soul. These songs reflect the glow of city lights on the mid-distance horizon, pinks and purples of angst-soothing belonging. At 27 minutes, the record is almost painfully short. As it ends, it sends you off wishing there were just a few more tracks, the way you wish you had just 15 minutes more to spend with a favorite person. A- | Mike Rengel
 
RIYL: the fine tradition of white boy R&B, cities, late-night shows on independent radio where they play old soul singles or alt-country heartbreakers

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