Self-titled ‘lo-fi bedroom slacker jangle pop musician’ unveils a feelgood album that’s goofy around the edges and with an appealingly soft centre
January is a month where we resolve to be the best people we can be at the start, but more often than not find it difficult to maintain our resolutions by the end. Well, let me tell you this – the music of JW Francis will make you a better person, specifically his Dream House album.
Francis operates out of New York, describing himself in a social media biography as a ‘Lo-fi bedroom slacker jangle pop musician trying my best’. It is a humble boast, for over the last three years Francis has brought his songwriting acumen into many lives, responding to requests from fans to write a song for them on Valentine’s Day. All he needs is the name of their beloved and the reason behind the request – and the rest is magic. Not surprisingly the project has spawned a mad rush of compositions, from which a choice dozen have been plucked for Dream House. When you consider the shortlist was a mere 300 songs, you can expect the 12 that make the grade to be pretty special.
And so it proves – yet Francis achieves this through what feels like very little exertion. As he says, he is a jangle pop musician, but his breezy approach is instantly appealing, the sun coming out from behind a cloud as the open-air guitars kick in.
With such free lyrical inspiration the storytelling is exquisite at times, with some of the lyrical vignettes speaking of ordinary triumphs that become priceless. Casino has a darker side in spite of the humourous voice, confessing, “I’ve disappeared into an empty dark casino, I gambled every day, lost it incognito”. Our Story has an enjoyable reference to “Elvis Presley and his dance moves”, while the sprightly Keep It Cool, Steve, praises how its dedicatee “knows how to get me out of a bad mood”.
The appealing musical style is a mishmash of influences, with The Strokes, Eels, Elvis Costello, Sufjan Stevens and Vampire Weekend all competing for attention, the latter most notably on You’re Changing. Despite this musical melting pot, Francis peddles an original style, his slight drawl relishing the stories he brings to life.
The highlights continue to flow. Dream Big delights through its murmured vocal and James Woodall’s dreamy string guitar. I Wanna Be Your Basketball – a curious notion for Valentine’s – is an enjoyable back and forward between Francis and co-vocalist Margaux Bouchegnies. Sweet As A Rose proves the ideal coda, a soft focus paean to the other half that ends with ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’.
From all this you will have gathered that Dream House is a feelgood album, slightly goofy around the edges, and with an appealing soft centre. It proves to be a lot of fun, and if it hasn’t raised several smiles by the end then you are a hard hearted listener indeed.