We get a lot of records sent to us here at The A.V. Club. Fortunately, we end up liking some of them. In Playlisted, we share our latest recommendations.
Album: Strangers In The First Place by Robert Francis (out now on Vanguard)
Press play if you like: Ed Harcourt, M. Ward, Ryan Bingham, and other singer-songwriters who make lushly orchestrated folk music; Silver Jews’ breezier side
Some background: Los Angeles native Robert Francis grew up around music: His sister is singer-songwriter Juliette Commagere, his first guitar came from family friend Ry Cooder, and he perfected his craft under the tutelage of Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante. In 2007, at age 19, he released his self-produced (and wholly self-performed) debut One By One, a collection of rich, layered ballads rooted in Americana. The 2009 follow-up Before Nightfall was a considerably soberer effort, achieving elegance with a stripped-down, intimate presentation. On Strangers In The First Place, Francis blends back in the multi-instrumental textures of One By One, but with a light touch, careful not to weigh down his sunniest pop songs to date. Recorded in a California mansion high above the Pacific Ocean, the album’s coolly contemplative compositions seem to soundtrack that location’s expansive vistas—more than making up in atmosphere what is lost in drama.
Try this: The record’s warm, windswept nature is best exemplified on the laid-back track “It First Occurred To Me.” A bright, brisk toe-tapper, the song rolls along to airy acoustics, soaring strings, and a jazzy muted trumpet. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a windows-down country drive on a clear spring day.