Against All Odds: Why the Best Band of 2010 Has Yet to Blow Up by Miles Doornbos

There’s an equation out there, somewhere in the ether, that explains what it is, precisely, what makes an artist successful.  An equation that combines talent, marketing, hype, and luck into some meaningful stew and allows us to see who exactly will make it and who won’t.  Call it the string theory of the music business.  As of right now, there’s no way to tell why David Guetta is ubiquitous on the pop charts or why anyone listens to Mumford and Sons over The Mountain Goats.  I want to discover this equation, if only to explain why Francis and the Lights isn’t the most talked about band of the year.

Francis and the Lights, brainchild of Francis Farewell Starlight, sounds like Prince and Peter Gabriel had a love child who developed an unhealthy obsession with minimalism.  Their songs are a simple swirl of melodic drum loops, leading bass lines, synth squeals, and fitful guitar lines. These simple, occasionally elegant arrangements support Francis’ croon, an emotive, untamable beast of a thing, laying low one minute and flying into a cracked falsetto the next.  Using this simple framework, Francis writes three-minute pop songs about love and music and loss.  His songs could easily fit into any section of my Monday morning show.

So, what’s keeping Francis and the Lights from blowing up?  Why hasn’t Pitchfork reviewed 2010’s brilliant It’ll Get Better?  Why, after nods of approval from Drake and Kanye, haven’t F&tL started to break through the barrier of commercial radio?  Part of the problem may be their inherent mutability.  Though the lines between the indie world and the Billboard charts are blurring, there’s still a gap to be bridged, and Francis toes the line too closely to really belong to either world.  He’s too slick, his unfashionable influences too sincere, to break through in the blog world and he’s too unusual to find a place on the radio without a significant push.

So, that’s where I come in.  To paraphrase John K. Samson, I will be Francis and the Lights pamphleteer.  I will share the brilliant video to “Darling, It’s Alright” with everyone I can, I will make mix CDs for strangers with “Get in the Car” as the closing song, I will embarrass myself at karaoke night.  I will do everything in my power to make sure an effulgent band gets their chance to shine.  I will start today.


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