Mar 07, 2023
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By Mark Moody

Chicago’s Fran, led by singer/songwriter Maria Jacobson, if anything, has their mirrored era in musical history perfectly etched out. Jacobson’s understated and slower to sink in melodies would have sat easily alongside the late ’90s best of Elliott Smith, Aimee Mann, and Rufus Wainwright. Ruminations on relationships and faith remain as timeless as ever, while Jacobson adds concerns over the fate of the planet in the event there weren’t already enough on her plate.

A heavy burden to be sure, but Jacobson makes light the work for the listener. The low-key smolder of “Palm Trees” is so beautifully executed that the song’s bunker mentality can be easily missed. While the woodwind accents of the insular parlor tune that is the title track make for both a maudlin and tongue-in-cheek moment. Jacobson bemoans the end of an only just begun relationship: “You’re leaving me now, won’t answer messages, I’m out, I’m on my ass now.”

For an album that runs nearly three quarters of an hour, Leaving’s most despairing moments (“God,” “I Know You”) can be stifling. But fortunately the bulk of the album and its longest tracks are buoyed by Jacobson’t pop smarts. The back-to-back “Everybody” and “Winter” benefit from more involved Beatles’ accented arrangements. And the penultimate track, “The Label,” makes for the perfect bookend to the earlier “Palm Trees,” as a clear highlight. Leaving is a soothing listen throughout and one where the undeniable strength of Jacobson’s vocals shine through best when more fully accompanied. (www.franband.bandcamp.com)

Author rating: 7/10

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