Normally, I’d take one look at a band like Francesqa, make a slightly repulsed and knowing face, and then swiftly leave them to their trendy clubs and smoky faux-Parisian cafes. Once you’ve clocked the (inevitably ‘Topman’ branded) checked shirts, manhood-destroying skinny jeans and ‘ironic’ hairstyles, it’s easy to dismiss them as yet another ‘trendier than thou’ indie, city band, with the odd nose piercing and buffed winkle picker. But, thanks to a series of unexpected events, I found myself listening to Francesqa’s new EP straight through, without any prior knowledge of the band’s ‘easy on the eye’ image or musical direction.
‘We Lived’ is a dainty little EP whose outward appearance bears no suggestion of the musical achievements within (the cover is a fabulously artsy ‘desolate land’shot) but has proven to be one of my personal musical highlights of the year. For a relatively new band, they’re already making waves in the alternative music scene; with their videos already playing on various music channels and impressive features in printed media, you’re sure to be hearing more of them soon.
The opening track on ‘We Lived’ is their most successful single release, which is also accompanied by an increasingly popular video. While strangely not being the title track of the EP, Ghosts is clearly the strongest. The sheer power and craftsmanship behind the opening track is nothing short of breathtaking, showing Francesqa to have the sound of an arena band trapped in a small band’s body. Francesqa’s sound is tricky to pin down, while boasting high octane rocky elements, there are many instances where pop and more indie influences are displayed- the bouncy chorus in ‘Ghosts’ is proof enough. Surprisingly, the band never seem rest on their laurels, even for a beat- each note, each bar has been meticulously composed and considered, and it’s very telling- the song is relentless in its innovative and fun nature.
If each band’s release is to have a ‘wild card’ song, or one that would divide opinion, then ‘Hopeful’ fills that description. ‘Hopeful’ is a bit of an odd one, although that’s not to say it’s displeasing to the ear. Overall, the track continues in a mid-paced poppy vain, and proves to be another showcase of Francesqa’s distinctive musical capabilities. As with each track on ‘We Lived’, ‘Hopeful’ has its own distinctive sound and setup; it builds well, has great breaks where vocalist Ashley Wilkie’s capabilities can be explored to a far greater extent and features brief anthemic outbursts of ‘I feel brand new’ which would work particularly well on a live platform.
‘Years’ would have to be the self-indulgent song of the EP, being over 5 minutes in length. While initially it seems rather ‘ballad-ish’, it soon builds to a big, if brief, chorus. This is the music of musicians, not of a flash-in the pan, T4 trendy rock group. Through tracks such as ‘Years’, it becomes easy to be pulled in to Francesqa’s world, and their lyrics- within a few bars, you can find yourself hanging on each word. With each track, another of the band’s compelling qualities is introduced to the listener, as though they were taking part in an overly complicated, musical striptease.
‘Crooked Little Sun’ is by far the most upbeat and rocky offering from ‘We Lived’. The powerful guitars and copious cymbals conjure up memories of a very early Lostprophets. Although shorter, and poppier than other similar ‘alternative’ songs that have graced the commercial charts in recent months, ‘Crooked Little Sun’ provides an energetic, danceable, chart-friendly offering while still retaining its integrity. As with the other works on ‘We Lived’, once again Francesqa’s lyrical skills are nothing short of wonderful; while often being poetic and ambiguous, each word flows and fits- which really is an unusual quality to see in a band who has already displayed such confidence and skills in other musical areas. Francesqa, irritatingly, do seem to have the whole package – young, talented and eloquent.
The EP closes with the title track, ‘We Lived’, a slow, simple and distinctly honest song. The music is not complicated or convoluted by intrusive production or unnecessary vocal acrobatics, and it really does pay off. With simple, quiet verses, ‘We Lived’ proves to have the simplest and most effective chorus, which features huge soaring group vocals and chants of ‘We Lived’. While beginning quietly, ‘We Lived’ finishes its run with increasing rocky elements and soaring guitars, with the climax being an expert blend of faultless vocals and feverish guitars. ‘We Lived’ends as fuzzy, distorted guitars gradually fade out to silence, leaving the listener feeling that they really heard something special.
Spanning so many genres, Francesqa have it made; if ever I saw a band to keep tabs on, then this is it. If their next release is even half as good as ‘We Lived’, the world should be very excited; No doubt about it, Francesqa are set for greatness.
4/5 high fives!