Music is a great big wonder sometimes. You never know what your going to dished out when reviewing a record and this truly takes form when listening to the material of one of the years much talked about artists in Francis And The Lights. Firstly, Francis And The Lights is the stage name of American musician Francis Farewell Starlite with the project having been around since as far back as 2007.
The rise of Francis And The Lights can in a way be compared to that of Skepta, in a sense that each artist's craft has seen a sudden push into the mainstream. Just as many people thought with Skepta's Konnichiwa, Francis' 2016 release titled Farewell, Starlite! is not a debut. Since 2007, he has released three EPs, an album (It'll Be Better) and was also lucky enough to score the soundtrack to the 2012 film Robot And Frank.
Put simply, Farewell, Starlite! is the most dynamic sounding record of the year. Francis' rise in prominence has allowed the inclusion of some big name contributors including Cashmere Cat, Kanye West, Benny Blanco, and an artist/producer who many have painted the biggest comparison with in Justin Vernon (Bon Iver)
The record opens with the See Her Out (Thats Just Life). It's warm, symphonically blaring and an opening that sets a perfect tone for the rest of the record. If you were going to see Francis And The Lights live with no idea of who or what this act was about, See Her Out (Thats Just Life) pretty much sums up the whole aesthetic. Just as it's warm and symphonically blaring, the track delivers a sense of quirk that fits Francis' overall character as an artists perfectly. The record then pushes through songs Comeback, Cant Stay Party and I Want You To Dance. Of these three tracks, I Want You To Dance shines brightest through Francis channeling funky, '80s-tinged Michael Jackson vibes. It delivers a discotheque sound and also features backing vocals reminiscent of the late King of Pop.
The record then truly picks up steam at May I Have This Dance. It's not the best track on the album, but what May I Have This Dance brings to Farewell, Starlite! is possibly one of its next offerings to radio. Through the songs tropical beat, the cut is easily one of the album's most accessible cuts.
We then venture into the record's most profound listen in My Citys Gone. The Kanye-featuring track is an obvious album highlight. It's mesmerizing and cleverly unique in a way that slowly draws you in through Francis' impressively calming vocal work.
There's a slight shift in tone in the back half of the record, where it really picks up it's accolades. After My Citys Gone, comes the crooning Running Man/ Gospel OP1. Listening to this track, it's easy to imagine Francis in a room in solitary with simply a microphone. For roughly two minutes the song narrates through a suavely crafted beat that features a very simple set of keys and a what appears to be a deep trumpet. After two minutes the vocoder then takes over and it once again shifts back into a song by Francis And The Lights.
It's Alright To Cry comes next - another incredibly attainable track. This one is feel good music delivered with the assistance of great vocal work and some solid electronic foundations. Friends is a familiar tune that comes at the perfect time in the context of the record. It's another feel good track that enlists handyman and all round musical genius Justin Vernon. Mark our words, come end of year 'best of' lists Friends will be there and not just because it features Justin Vernon or that the songs video is truly one of the year's best but because it's honestly a really, really great piece of music.
Concluding, Farewell, Starlite! is the gospel-esque Thank You. Achieving that 'recorded' feel perfectly, the track is a beautiful ending which sees Francis speak to you with the assistance of a wonderfully simplistic piano piece.
Farewell, Starlite! feels like a body of work by a born-again artist. What Francis And The Lights has achieved on this record is nothing short of incredible. Paint all the Justin Vernon/Bon Iver comparisons you like, because from were we see it Francis And The Lights has well and truly arrived with one of the most dynamic-sounding records of the year.
Download the album here.