Guest Album Review by Nikky Shah: Tom Francis – From Up There – Guitar-based narrative songs with meaning

Tom Francis is a singer/songwriter from Australia who recently released his latest album “From Up There” as a follow up to his debut record “Wishing Well”, both drawing strong influences from folk and country music. His latest album continues on a similar progression to his original sound, but better cements Francis’ rare musical personality- complete with grittier vocals, authentic lyrics and simple piano notes and guitar chords.

No theatrics or overproduced songs here, just simple, pure, and to the point. The opening track “Tomorrow’s Charm” will remind you of “My Favourite Faded Fantasy” from Damien Rice, and for me there is a clear comparison to Jack Johnson-which is as good as my compliments get. The entirety of the album is a subtle blend of Francis’ guitar mixed with soft lyrics that at times stretch across a rather heartbreaking form of truth.

There is a sense of wholesomeness in his songs that are rather refreshing. The album’s idealistic and optimistic look at life pulls you in like gravity, which is exactly what Francis is looking to do; to capture the emotional power and coherency of a live performance with a desire to make songs with meaning in a world where much of music has lost its depth.

The album cover for “From Up There” is as transparent and honest as the lyrics are. I highly suggest anyone who listens to the album to read through his lyrics first. It’s nothing like traditional songs composed of fragmented lines and unfinished thoughts. Each song holds its own with a clear beginning and end-almost like a short story, laced with just the right amount of detail.

What I also love is there are no conflicting themes. The story, so to speak, Francis says revolves around the ideas of love, acceptance, change and, most importantly, a hopeful tomorrow. All themes that consistently flow through the entire album and is most clearly seen early on in track “Rise” where Francis’ voice first wavers in contrast to the guitar chords “I’ve taken my chances and I’m letting everything go”.

While trite at first, the album goes on to pick up more instruments in title track “From Up There” and “Mona with the Children”- a piano here, stronger guitar chords there- and Francis’ voice even picks up several notches. The slow progression in these tracks are almost hypnotic in its rhythm, warm lifting keyboards, and continued harmonies as Francis swoons when ending “From Up There” with “And he would call into the blue, and when he’d fall, he was falling to you.”

Seven Valleys is by far my favorite track on the album and represents Francis the best, as it almost reminds me of every track on the album rolled into one- complete with layered choruses, piano and my favorite line from the album, “They will make you swim but they’ll only let you sink far enough to know that you are not alone.”

There is such an effortless flow and beauty in tracks like “Where I Stand” that almost makes it seem like Francis reeled out each tune within minutes- in reality I’m sure these songs were written and unwritten over and over til they were perfect.

The album is humble and uniquely refined. It’s a collection of short stories, really. Narrated by an overwhelmingly resilient yet soothing voice, guitars and piano.

It’s such a beautiful album in every sense of the term natural beauty. I was very surprised at how much Francis’ voice and lyrics grew on me. It’s an album you’ll find yourself listening to on repeat in any setting. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a new genre of music, or at the very least someone who is looking to brighten their day.

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