A vulnerable pop album is a very revealing one. It takes a lot for someone to really let themselves go and express themselves, especially through the means of pop music. Francis and The Lights take that big step in their debut album, Farewell, Starlite!
This outfit isn't just entering the playing field; Francis and The Lights have been achieving slow success since 2007 with a handful of EPs and a collection of singles. They've landed big tours with the likes of Drake, La Roux, and Ke$ha and were even referenced in Drake's If You're Reading This It's Too Late. Stardom is no mystery to the group, and Francis Starlite knows it.
As mentioned before, there is a sense of vulnerability on the record. It's evident in tracks like opener 'See Her Out (That's Just Life)', its infectiously dinky synths that bounce throughout the song providing a light atmosphere for Starlite's hopeful vocals. The song's about heartbreak, but Starlite can't bring himself to stop caring about his partner, the chorus asking "If you see her out there / Behind the wheel / Driving getaway / Oh god, I hope she escapes / Whole damn world is a cage." The fact that the instrumental has little more beyond the quiet synths backs up the vocals adds to the very raw and pure disposition of the song. It's not trying to mask its meaning: it wants to be heard.
Other songs that invoke a similar sense include single 'Friends' and closure 'Thank You'. 'Friends' gained some momentum when Kanye West appeared in the music video, but the song's meaning also gives it what it needed to succeed. The song again discusses heartbreak, Francis wanting to rekindle a relationship. The chorus somberly cries, "We could be friends / Just put your head on my shoulders / I will straighten out, for you / Don't wanna know if you made mistakes / I'm still waiting on your sunshine" Kanye's only line in the song being one single iteration of "We could be friends," the distortion of his vocoder indicating him being in tears. Bon Iver - who's new album is also pretty good (see our review here) - contributes to the song, too, singing the first verse and arranging the beautiful schizophrenia of the song's conclusion. 'Thank You' follows it, the song's lo-fi phoIne recording making up most of the track, again pairing rawness with vulnerability.
The rest of the album isn't as vulnerable, but it's still quite catchy. The cheerful synths and nice melodies of songs like 'Comeback' (which come in later in the song) and 'Can't Stay Party' provide a ear-catching experience. Many of the songs revolve around the theme of heartbreak, including 'Comeback' and 'I Want You To Shake', toying with his feelings towards wanting to find love again. Some fun moments find their way onto the record too, including the reminiscent personality of 'May I Have This Dance' with its dinky synths and the fun fat bass pops in 'Running Man / Gospel OP1' after its dramatic intro. Bon Iver-esque vocoders also come into play on 'May I Have This Dance' and 'It's Alright To Cry'.
While the album does tackle a relatable subject, it's not exactly free from cliché. Heartbreak is something many have experienced, or at least heard about. It seems for every song about something different, there's two Taylor Swift songs about a broken relationship. Lots of this album becomes forgettable after its initial charm. The sentimental and vulnerable nature of the three tracks mentioned before that contain those elements aren't exhibited throughout the record, sadly. Had he kept that demeanor going, Farewell, Starlite! could've been a much greater album.
That being said, it's not a bad album by any means. Francis and The Lights' long-awaited debut is a success, but it could've been taken a step further. The album's relatable nature and somber overtones provide for a heartwarming, if not nostalgic listen. Let's just hope the next album doesn't take a decade to come out, and for the sake of Starlite, that he finds what he's looking for throughout the album: love.
Favorite Tracks: See Her Out (That's Just Life), Friends, It's Alright To Cry
Least Favorite Track: My City's Gone
Rating: 76 / 100