November 13, 2008

Frances: "All The While".

Every so often, a debut effort comes along that rivals some of the more solid and established records of the respective genre or sub genre, and All The While is very much one of these, from start to finish.

Orchestral rock along the lines of Garland of Hours' The Soundest Serum and Silverchair's masterpiece Diorama, All The While gathers up and mixes in the chamber pop of Sufjan Stevens' acclaimed Illinois and the power/twee pop of Tilly and the Wall, which sounds even better musically than it does in writing. Of much of 2008's best releases, I venture to say this is most definitely among the best of them.

All The While shines in many different ways, and most notably in key tracks such as "All The While" and "Locket", which find the balance between strong orchestral arrangements and frilly, feel-good melodies, in just the right dosage. From the pounding intro to "All The While", to the airy opening of "The New Decoy", Frances' debut release covers all the bases of emotionally-impacting pop, however many comparisons can be drawn in effort to discredit their deserved acclaim.

Much more than simply a Sufjan Stevens rip-off, All The While sees breezy classical orchestration intertwined with the best elements of any decent indie rock offering, most notably in tracks such as "The Brain", which comprises Of Montreal's classic rock energy and Lambchop's synergetic instrumental backbone, and "Tightrope", featuring a slow-building climax which suddenly explodes into an epic krautrocker, instantly becoming a standout among standouts.

Some of the record's softer side is portrayed through tracks like "Steady", in which Donnie Darko seemingly revisits the closet in his parents' bedroom, lulled eerily by a brilliant theremin accompaniment, and "Tomorrow Gold", smacking blatantly of Wilson's visionary Pet Sounds.

While All The While falls very short of Pet Sounds, a valiant effort is made by all in this up-and-coming Brooklyn quintet to craft a balanced, undeniably irresistable modern pop gem, and its freshness and remarkable maturity will undoubtedly boost it to the top of many of the most respected "best of 2008" lists. Highly recommended, indeed.

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