Do you ever meet someone and you immediately want to become friends with them? That’s what I felt like when I first heard Francis and the Lights. They’ve got cool friends like Chance the Rapper and Justin Vernon. They covered “Dear Theodosia” for the Hamilton Mixtape. And they’re name makes me think that they don’t take themselves all that seriously, in a good way.
Their single “May I Have This Dance?” was one of my most listened to Spotify tracks of 2017. It’s an airy song with a synthesizer hook that has made me dance in my cubicle on more than one occasion. It’s a song that feels like it could be on the soundtrack to an indie film about an awkward teenage couple.
So Francis’s latest album, “Just for Us” felt like that all-important friend date where you take that friend-of-a-friend status to the next level. I was hoping they brought that same energy as when they were hanging out with people like Chance and Bon Iver. However, this felt like a coffee friend date where you realize that you don’t have that much in common at all.
The album starts off with a peppy sunshine-laced piano hook in “Morning.” I’m normally a big fan of tracks that lead with a simple piano hook (See Atmosphere’s “Sunshine”), but this 90 second track is over before I can let the vitamin D soak into my pores.
Justin Vernon lends his auto-tuned harmonies to the title track, “Just for Us.” And while it’s got a catchy chorus, it doesn’t have the same effervescence as Francis’s previous singles. The lyrics sound like a lecture from a father to a teenage daughter. While that could be the case, I’d hope he would have stuck that message into an album that was longer than the 26 minutes.
The rest of the songs are lost in a blur of synthesizers and electronic harmonies, and it goes by quick - the first seven tracks are all under three minutes long, and the longest is 3:26. There’s no killer single that I want to put on repeat and dance to, nor is the album deep enough to make me want to get lost in. It’s the coffee with friend of a friend that doesn’t really work out. Overall it was a good experience, you’re just not sure you want to do it again.
In the end, I like Francis and the Lights. I just like them a little bit more when they bring their friends.