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Album Review

Heaven is songwriter-guitarist Robert Francis' fourth album since 2007, but his first with new band the Night Tide — drummer David Kitz and bassist Ben Messelbeck. Francis also acts as producer. The songs in this set detail a particularly difficult period in his life, when he not only lost his sense of identity as a person, but his work; the tunes strive to rediscover both. Musically, Heaven is all over the place. There are few references to his earlier work, which is a good thing. There are intimate, confessional songs such as the brief opener "Something Tells It Not To" and the skeletal single "Wasted on You," which aspires to Townes Van Zandt. "Baby Was the Devil" is a nearly anthemic rocker that crosses bright indie rock with E-Street Band-esque crescendoes and melodic choruses, complete with a tenor saxophone solo. "Love Is a Chemical," with its poignant hypnotic guitar hook and harrowing lyric, ride atop a rhythm section that insists on propulsion in spite of the melody's reluctance. It's one of the catchiest broken love songs —with a dreamy guitar interlude — in recent memory. The gorgeous meld of indie pop, surf, and desert rock illustrate the reflective lost-in-the-wilderness feel of "Ukiah." See You Around" commences as a sparse singer/songwriter tune, but takes a sharp left turn at pop pysch as a truckload of reverb, additional percussion (by brother-in-law Joachim Cooder), organ, and calliope keyboard effects fill out the sonic portrait. The latter feel colors the blue-eyed soul of "Give You My Love." Take a listen to "Take You to the Water" and you'll hear a direct melodic line to the storytelling and melodic influence of Phil Lynott. Francis' sister, Carla Commagere, adds backing vocals to the baked, spacey "Blue," and the atmospheric, dreamy, American Gothic of "Hotter Than Our Souls." The latter contains the line the entire set hinges on: "If there's a road you are forgiven long as it goes." It's followed by a solo country blues in "I've Been Meaning to Call." Speaking of country, "Everything Will Pass" is an Americana killer that weds suggestions of both Van Zandt and Jeff Buckley. Francis' writing has never been more sophisticated, nor his guitar playing so canny and inventive. Some production choices are questionable, but can be overlooked given the unflinching honesty in these songs, and the guts it took to helm a session like this without previous experience. Personal pain is often a motivating factor in the act of creation. It can be difficult to maneuver, however, and result in maudlin excess. Heaven, with its temerity, craft, and ambition, succeeds at using difficult emotional terrain to approach art, in spades.

Customer Reviews

Robert Francis you beautiful man

I'm absolutely in love with Robert Francis, his music, and his lyrics. Truly genuine singer-songwriters are a rare find. A true gem.

Keeps getting better!

I have been following Robert since his first release in 2007. It is wonderful to see him growing as an artist and perfecting his craft. No part of this album dissapoints, in fact it is an inspiration and will be the perfect soundtrack for the summer. Way to go Robert Francis! Best album yet!

Great Work Again

Robert's previous albums have been amazing - this one is no exception. Once again he shows raw talent and feeling. Not one bad song on this album.


Born: September 25, 1987 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Raised in Los Angeles as the youngest member of a music-filled household, indie folk singer/songwriter Robert Francis benefited from a diverse musical climate thanks to his pianist/producer father, his songwriting sister Juliette Commagere, and his Mexican mother, who sang native ranchera songs around the house. Family friend and acclaimed stringmaster Ry Cooder gave Francis his first guitar at age nine; seven years later, the Red Hot Chili Peppers' John Frusciante accepted Francis as his only guitar...
Full Bio