JW Francis has been hiking the Appalachian Trail this summer, and it has been enjoyable watching his progress on Instagram. His unapologetic persona shines through the images and videos as he tells the stories of people he meets, and his sometimes brutal honesty. But during this time away from his New York City home JW has been releasing singles, videos, and a soon to be full-length, WANDERKID.
The tracks on WANDERKID were obviously written before JW hit the trail. Yet, anticipating that he would releasing the album while he was hiking, JW centered the album on his experiences. This is planning and marketing to perfection… from the mountain-inspired album graphics, to the songs themselves. He opens with tape-warped jangle-pop guitar layers and heavily saturated vocals, “John, take me away! John, take me with you!” in, John, Take Me With You.
The melodic theme continues into the second track, I Love You. Here, the drums take a more formal role with tight snare and tom hits, a kick you feel more than you hear, and light percussive sounds. A pulsating analog synths layers, caring the melodic theme forward, guitar that isn’t as prominent as the opening song, and a subtle bass line that underpins it all.
Maybe is a favorite song on this album. It has everything you want from JW Francis: a double bass groove, a flute voiced synth, saturated vocals, a beat you can’t resist, smooth guitar chords, and a complex song structure that has twists and turns.
WanderkidJW Francis – WANDERKID
Let them see your face
You are your favorite place
You’re always on the go
Make Another Record builds on Maybe, taking some of the same elements while taking it in a different direction. I realize that description is contradictory, but the song shows his brilliance.
Only With You has a memorable song melody, while he sings a Dylan-esque vocal. Friends join him on harmonies, elevating the song. Holy Mountain is a fun track, with a genius bass line constructed by Siddhu Anandalingam and performed by Andy Shimm. This song incorporates surf-pop guitar that I love.
Title-track WANDERKID is a repetitive staccato bop. “Wanderkid, you’re always on the go,” JW sings. Don’t Fall Apart is a little more stripped down using tense chords that create tension. With lines like, “I miss you so bad!” the song is about restless thoughts and anxieties, matching the tense nature of the song.
Fake It Till You Make It is a track about depression on the album, “I wish it wasn’t so easy to feel bad.” JW reflects about the future, “Someday, I’ll be home again.”
In the song I’m Probably A Ghost, JW allows the chords to ring out, building on the driving beat and a simple but saturated bass-line. This is a song that builds the most on the album, with an electric lead that echoes his vocal melody. An orchestral-like build leads to a plateau that has a clean mix of guitar, drums and bass.
I’m in the woodsJW Francis – I’m Probably A Ghost
I’m in the country
I’m in house
I need more money
I’m on the road
I’m on the billboard
I’m on my phone
I’m feeling funny
Cars is a downtempo closing track, acting as a late-night reflection. JW uses a fast tremolo on his guitars as he picks out a melody. The song ends the album with a gentle fade out, closing on a chord that leaves you wanting more.
WANDERKID is a standout jangle pop album of 2021, thematic in its tones and structures. Sahil Ansari‘s production and mixing on this album is incredible. While so many albums today feel like a conglomeration of singles, JW Francis’ WANDERKID feels like one piece.
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