Christina Cone and Andrew Doherty, who comprise Brooklyn-born, Nashville-bred indie pop duo Frances Cone, have molded their matrimony into a successful musical partnership. The cohesiveness paved the way on their 2013 debut album, Come Back, after which they began a five-year journey to hone the Frances Cone sound. Cone’s finesse for heartfelt lyricism and Doherty’s dexterous arrangements reconvene on culminating sophomore record Late Riser.
Cone sews a stripped-back sinking feeling into her powerful soprano voice as she loudly makes a statement on the aptly titled opener, “Wide Awake.” The song recalls the intro to Lorde’s “Ribs” with delicious electronic crescendos but quickly takes a left turn to a softer, slower and more demure acoustic arrangement.
The couple employs what has become its signature sound—a simple melody accentuated by choppy percussion and echoey harmonies. “Wide Awake” is bathed in rich synth and mellow guitar strumming, but still allows room for a languid beat.
Frances Cone must have thought the intro to “Wide Awake” was pretty close to perfection, because the duo used a similar melody on “Unraveling.” Keeping in fashion with the duo’s sedated mood and pace, the song embraces its harmonic potential. Cone’s and Doherty’s voices accentuate each other gorgeously through intricate vocal laying, going far beyond two-part harmonies. By spotlighting Cone’s higher pitch loud and center, and placing Doherty’s vocals echoing in the background, “Unraveling” ends up feeling like Ben Howard’s I Forget Where We Were.
The title track and “All For The Best” get a lot edgier and more powerful, both in soul and tempo. The former has Cone singing in a rasp absent elsewhere on the record.
Doherty’s rasp also sports a level of depth, adding a fusion of grunge and country that gradually finds its footing on a robust sultry bass line. On “All For The Best,” Frances Cone puts percussion reminiscent of ‘80s U2 to good use. This song’s change of scenery caters to a more grounded rock sound through resounding electric guitar and Doherty’s singing.
The latter half of Late Riser contains some summery folk gems, contrasting the more downcast first half. This allows cuts like “Arizona” to use the duo’s catchy melodies to carry their lyrical grace: “It was Arizona, the 17th/ The howl of knowing what’s underneath/ And I’m so sorry I couldn’t speak so sweet.” The band also brings in several fun upbeat guitar riffs that are paired with uptempo drumming. “Over Now” aims to keep up the same summery heartbeat with thumping electric guitar lines and whimsical storytelling. It’s soft-spoken but hopeful qualities recall the arrangements too The Head and the Heart or the Hunts.
All in all, Late Riser is a testament to where Frances Cone has come from. The duo ranges from bedroom pop to rustic rock. It’s an intriguing sequel.
Follow writer Vic Silva at Twitter.com/VicSilvaaaa.