Sadie Dupuis’ artist recommendation: “Just after starting college, I was wooed via mixtape into my first real relationship, a long-distance joint that would result in lots more mixes, lots of shared favorite bands, and a lot of sadness when, after five years, that relationship came to an end. Like divvying up a record collection post-divorce, there was some confusion as to how to go on enjoying these “shared bands” after the split. Could I still listen to that music, even though it brought up difficult memories of someone I was moving on from? Could I claim ownership over songs shown to me by someone no longer in my life?
One of the songs on that first mix was Silver Plated 606 by Francine, an indie-rock-pop-whatever Boston band on Q Division records. I can’t remember how much of my interest in Francine was egged on by my ex, who was as intoxicated as I was by their witty, weird, unstoppably pop songwriting. But pretty soon we were trying to figure out how to rip off “The Scobe,” as we affectionately referred to frontman Clayton Scoble (ex-Poundcake, ex-Aimee Mann) as if he were our buddy. (If you’re reading this, Clayton, apologies for the secret nickname. It seemed fraternal to us.)
It was like there was some kind of secret formula Scoble employed, a formula that involved mixed meters, scalar melodies, vocals that jumped from a slack, flippant, near-spoken low register to gorgeous, airy, sustained falsetto harmonies. Those were Francine’s hallmarks. And yet each song was totally distinct, and despite consistent adherence to those techniques, their albums showed marked sonic evolutions from release-to-release. Debut Forty On A Fall Day is, excepting some nearly-medieval deviations, straight-ahead goofy rock, with the title track outlining a fantasied date with Kim Deal; middle child 28 Plastic Blue Versions Of Endings Without You is a word-rich (and wordily titled), pensive, and gorgeous break-up album; their most recent and effort, 2006’s Airshow, incorporates Notwist-esque electronics, attentive, daring production from drummer Steve Scully, and increasingly engaging yet complicated songwriting.
Across each release, though, Scoble’s labyrinthine lyrics reward close reading. As the lines are parsed out strangely over measures, the meanings become skewed, obscured. You’d never know that Airshow’s stunner Penn Station boasts first-verse lyrics “What do you get when you call out loud? You only get what you circuit bend out of skin, home-sick and kind of homely.” You have to listen to these songs a million and half times to get their total genius, to really examine the intricacy packed into these 3-minute pop songs. Having listened to these songs exactly a million and a half times, I feel like I’ve lived in them. I feel the ownership I dreaded abandoning post-break up. I’ve ripped off the Scobe so much that I probably oughta buy him a pizza or twelve. And hey, I guess my ex can have a couple slices too. Thanks for introducing me to a band I’ve found so totally inspirational.”
MP3: Fake Firelplace Things by Francine
MP3: Oxygenated by Francine
Not familiar with Francine? Sadie suggests you start here: “28 Plastic Blue Versions of Endings Without You was the first Francine album I dug, and it paved the way for me to get into the releases that followed and preceded it. It’s sentimental–it’s a break up album, of course it’s sentimental–but it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it covers a lot of ground over the course of thirteen beautifully constructed songs.”
About our guest author, Sadie Dupuis: The list of the coolest women in alternative rock just got a little longer, friends. Yes, Sadie Dupuis, the lead singer and guitarist for the North Hampton, MA band Speedy Ortiz (the band name references a character from the Love and Rockets comic, in case you were wondering) can be added to your rad lady list of Kim Gordon, Liz Phair and Kim Deal. She’s got the voice that darts along with the band’s bouncing guitar melodies. She’s got the biting lyrics that are sharpened from her immersion in creative writing, which she teaches at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. And, she has a well schooled band that prefers to play basement shows to clubs (bassist Darl Ferm recently noted in an interview, “…the higher up on stage you are, the less connection you’re probably going to have with the audience…”). The band’s debut album, Major Arcana received an A- rating from the AV Club and was slapped with a ‘best new music’ label from Pitchfork. Speedy Ortiz’s fan base continues to grow and their live shows are getting downright raucous. Be sure to check the Speedy Ortiz Facebook info page for the latest tour info and get out to see this group that is taking the alternative world by storm.