5 Reasons to give Francis and the Lights a try

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It's hard for me to know where to begin with Francis Farewell Starlight and his musical project Francis and the Lights.

Many of my favorite songs right now are his. Several of my favorite musical artists hold him in the highest regard (Justin Vernon, Chance the Rapper, Ye, etc.). I can hear his highly layered synth-y harmonic influence all over indie pop, rap, and R&B right now. 

And yet. There are times I just want to watch him dance.

Good lord, the guy can dance. Not like how dancers dance. He dances like little kids dance. He dances like your dog dances when she sees you heading to the back door with a tennis ball. He dances like it doesn't matter at all, while at the same time being the most important thing in the world. 

Musically, he's worked as a vocalist and/or producer with some of the biggest names in music (the above mentioned trio, Frank Ocean, etc.). But he's only released a handful of EPs and full-length albums over the past decade or so, but he's evolved his sound significantly along the way.

He's best known for last year's song Friends which also features Bon Iver. (Kanye claimed it as his favorite song of 2016.) Friends is off Francis' most recent album Farewell, Starlight! and showcases the floating harmonic sheen of his most recent work. There's definitely technology at work, but you (or at least I) can feel the humanity behind it all. An example would be a line in the song that hits me for reasons I can't even explain: "I heard you bought some land in Mexico/And I said "Way to go, man!"

And the video. It's a humdinger of simplicity. 

Anyway, here are 5 Reasons to give Francis and the Lights a try:

Looking for more? Try the Farewell, Starlight! album for a nice synth-based float. Go with It'll Be Better for some more traditional, but still damn sweet, songcraft.  

5 reasons to give Matt Duncan a try

If you think 70s AM radio was a golden era in music, as you should, then I bet you'll like Matt Duncan. 

Full disclosure: I just discovered him a few weeks ago while poking around on Spotify. So I can't proclaim any special insight here. There's not much of his background online, other than he's in New York (currently the bass player in Hedwig & the Angry Inch!). And I think he's originally from Kentucky. That's about what I know.

But dude, these songs!

I've had his awesomely titled 2013 album, Soft Times, on repeat since I first heard it. Why? Because the weather's turned nice. Because I've taken to cracking the windows on the Jeep. And because this is the easiest album to listen to that I've heard in a long while. 

I realize "easy" isn't usually considered a musical compliment. The cool kids like their music artsy, with bold undercurrents of fartsy. I get it. When it comes to music, I occasionally (and delusionally) fancy myself one of the cool kids. Fuck the cool kids. 

Sometimes you just want to hear something that makes you happy. Like right now? On this beautiful morning? I'm not looking for musical quadratics in 32/8 time. I just wanna smile and maybe clap my hands a little while I'm whipping up these pancakes.

His songs are as hooky as they come. Lots of keyboard and bubbling bass. Lots of gently wafting Chicago-ish horns and backing vocals. A touch of Steely Dan sheen. It's a 70s era sound for sure. (I swear I hear the ghost of Couldn't Get It Right in his song The Keys). Lyrically, he's in that same comfy pocket. 

But the familiarity? That's what I love about it most. There's familiarity in the sunrise too, but it's still freaking awesome every single time. Sometimes simple wins. As Matt says on Summer Song: "When days are long, you need a summer song."

You can check out Matt on Bandcamp (where's he's posting a new free song every month). 

Also: as a reader pointed out (holy hell, I've got a reader?), both Matt Duncan albums are available on vinyl from Soul Step. Ooh I bet they sound good on vinyl.

Here's a sampler set to get you started:

5 Reasons To Give Ryan Adams A Try

Ryan Adams and I go back to his Whiskeytown days (meaning: I started listening to him in 1995, while Ryan, well, he doesn't know who I am). Since going solo in 2000, he's taken a careening run through 27* genres of music over the course of 323* albums (these are estimates, but Ryan's made a lot of music).

He also just released a song-by-song cover of Taylor Swift's entire 1989 album.

Although his albums Heartbreaker and Gold are damn near perfect as they sit, I've built a lot of Ryan Adams playlists over the years; reconfigured super albums based on whatever emotional/spiritual jag I happened to be on at the time. (I do the same thing with Prince, another prolific guy who I'm sure would also hate me for re-sequencing his work, but, alas, another guy who also doesn't know who I am.)

Ryan's a man of many moods. I might suggest this mellow sampler when you're sipping bourbon by a late fall fire, wistfully.

5 reasons to give Bob Schneider a try

I really really really dig Austin singer/songwriter/messer-arounder Bob Schneider. You might too. He's all-over-the-board, but for those not familiar, I tried to give the gist below. And that Wizard of Oz line is killer. If you're up for more, I'd suggest starting with the album Lonelyland. Or hit his site, which is kind of bananas. The world could use more Bob Schneiders.

You’re the color of the night, that’s right,
The color of a fight - you move me.
You’re the color of the colored part of The Wizard of Oz movie.