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Paley & Francis

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Album Review

Since the late ‘90s, Black Francis — or Frank Black, take your pick — has thrived on quickly made projects, and Paley & Francis is no exception. Recorded in two days in Nashville, Tennessee when Francis was on a break during the Pixies' 2010 tours, the album has the kind of off-the-cuff, palpable sense of fun that happens when two old friends lay down tracks together (joined by Muscle Shoals players David Hood and Spooner Oldham). These songs reside in the same rootsy/punky territory as much of Francis' 2000s solo work, which isn’t surprising since Reid Paley, Hood, and Oldham have worked with him on many of those projects. Yet Paley & Francis has its own identity, if only because Paley steps up to the mike this time. The pair trade lead vocal duties, each offering a distinct but complementary approach: Paley's gruff tones evoke a younger Tom Waits, but the bluesy ramble “On the Corner” and pure pop jangle of “Ugly Life” have an affably light touch. Meanwhile, Francis has fun on urban fairy tales like “Curse” and “Magic Cup,” both of which boast his unmistakable voice and angular riffs. What really sells the album, however, is its fresh, unstudied feel; these are first takes, and songs such as “Crescent Moon” feel like the listener is sitting in on a particularly inspired rehearsal. Francis and Paley fans alike will enjoy this laid-back immediacy.

Paley & Francis, Paley & Francis
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