UK Singer-Songwriter Adam French Makes Strong Debut
Adam French’s debut full-length doesn’t feel like a debut. He sounds seasoned. His music is expertly produced. He’s destined for the mainstream.
On his debut album, The Back Foot and The Rapture, the UK-based singer-songwriter delivers 12 killer tracks. They’re not the kind of peppy, hook-heavy pop songs you’re hearing on Top 40, but they’re just as well-crafted and addictive thanks to robust arrangements bursting with energy.
The Back Foot and The Rapture is completely cohesive. There are no in-your-face surprises or unexpected deviations from Adam’s steady style — that’s okay. Each song leads seamlessly into the next, resulting in an experience that almost sounds like a 45 minute song, which is cool, because you can travel the length of the album straight through or shuffle it up and either way you’ll be getting lively pop-ish gems one after the other.
The album opens with “Weightless,” an apt beginning because it takes its time. It’s gentle with us, taking us by the hand and leading us into a dreamy world of tender guitar work and emotive vocal delivery. The pop is coming, but for now, we float in the wispy rhythms of the record’s opener. Next comes “My Addiction,” a darkened ballad that finds Adam delivering an impassioned performance as he wails confessional lyricism over searing strings and thumping percussion rising in the distance. “The Only Living Thing” kicks off with a twangy guitar line, dipping into soft folk territory before Adam’s vocals sweeten things up. This is a love song of quiet proportion — lines like “If you’re lonely, won’t you hold me?” resound in the increasingly desperate arrangement, so much emotion in such a quick song.
“Coco” has major radio potential — there’s that quirky hook that falls right off the tongue, there are complex rhythm changes, there’s Adam’s lax delivery, all joining for a strangely cathartic singalong. The Back Foot and The Rapture’s standout track is “Keep It Together,” a quintessential pop-rock anthem rich with sunny melody and some of Adam’s most versatile vocals. Things get a little heavier on “More To Life” as slapping smashes of percussion kick the track off. The climax comes quick, a dark alt-rock arrangement pulsing with power. On “You From The Rest,” we get another of Adam’s heart-heavy ballads. There’s a visceral tone to the guitar, twangy strums plucked raw beneath what starts as something sweet but soon turns almost maniacal — waves of varying emotion that overlap throughout the track.
On “The Rat,” we’re treated to a stripped-down composition built on soft layers of acoustic strums and swells of strings in the background. It’s a stunner, dripping with palpable emotion you can hear in the ache of Adam’s faltering, fluttering voice. “Ivory” veers from some of the more commercial pop tones on the rest of the record — it’s shadowy and lurching, eerie in its thick, fuzzy percussion and angry breath. On “Incompatible,” another slightly stripped-back track makes its way onto the record, led by simple guitar before the arrangement cracks open to incorporate a slew of new detailing. “Wanna Be Here” is one of the most poignant songs of this collection, from the swelling melody and the pained lyrics — “You keep crawling under my skin” — to the tired way Adam delivers them. The Back Foot and The Rapture ends 12 tracks later with “Punchbag Love,” a dynamic closer that manages (discreetly) to merge two of Adam’s worlds. Where there’s a soft, tender take, there’s a punchier counterpart just a few minutes away. It’s mostly subdued, slow and dreamy, but there are layers of matter-of-fact urgency, especially in what erupts at the very end.
On his debut album, Adam French proves — song and song again — that he is a force to be reckoned with on the new music scene. Fit with adept pipes, a skill for sincere songwriting, and no end to arrangements that are equal parts tender and exciting, he’s well on his way to big, bold things.