Francis and the Lights
by Trevor Paxton
"There are no ‘members’ of Francis and the Lights. It is me and whomever else is involved. Including you."
The above statement from Francis Farewell Starlite — his actual name as far as anyone can tell — perfectly describes Francis and the Lights' perspective. A fairly concise interviewee, Starlite is as genuine as they come; despite his impressive track record and hype surrounding him, Francis prefers to remain behind the scenes.
Francis and the Lights’ new record, Farewell, Starlite!, plays exactly like an album straight out of the catalog of Peter Gabriel, had his solo career begun 40 years later. (See: “May I Have This Dance,” a song that sounds so much like a Peter Gabriel song that Gabriel himself should probably receive some sort of honorary royalties.) That’s no fault to Francis’ sound, either; contained within the album’s 10 songs (and slight 32-minute run time) are delightful pop songs from an artist who is, for better or for worse, so defiantly himself.
Francis and the Lights is a bit of an enigma. After several EPs and one full-length album prior to Farewell, Starlite!, Francis has gained co-signs from some of music’s biggest names. During his 6-year career as a recording artist, he has: served as a producer for Drake, toured with Ke$ha and MGMT, been featured on tracks with acclaimed artists like Chance the Rapper, Bon Iver and Frank Ocean, performed at major festivals across the nation, and even received the stamp of approval from Kanye West. Clearly, he must be doing something right.
The anthemic (and admittedly stunning) album opener, “See Her Out (Thats Just Life),” showcases everything that makes Francis and the Lights so appealing. The production is incredible; Starlite’s signature layered vocal processes pave the way for the joyous synths to shine and set the tone for the rest of the album.
But therein lies the disappointment with Farewell, Starlite!; the album, while infectious, comes dangerously close to being more "flash in the pan" than truly memorable. None of the songs are bland, by any stretch of the imagination, but what you hear on track one is essentially what’s in store for the remaining nine tracks.
The highlights on Farewell, Starlite! are certainly impressive. Song of the year candidate and Bon Iver/Kanye West (ish)-featuring “Friends,” the album’s rightful centerpiece, is a gorgeously lush R&B song about the desire to rekindle the feeling of feeling needed. The lead-in to the final chorus — “I will turn around for you / Just put your hand on my shoulder” — is one of the most euphoric and memorable moments on any album this year. However, the album itself, even including its high points, still feels one-note.
All in all, Farewell, Starlite! absolutely solidifies Francis Farewell Starlite’s status as one of music’s most intriguing artists and producers, but still falls a bit short of the immense hype surrounding the project itself.
Song You Need To Hear: "Friends (feat. Bon Iver)"