Because it took Francisco the Man seven years to release an album, it’s easy to imagine them being either too perfectionist to settle on a collection of songs or not prolific enough to meet the demands of a record. Fortunately, the California four-piece (named after a character in Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude) is neither of those things. It’s more a bumpy streak of luck that’s to blame for their relative inactivity: Since their formation, the band has undergone a series of lineup changes, hiatuses, what a press release calls a “near-death experience at a roller rink,” and a relocation from Riverside to Los Angeles — all with just an EP (2010’s With Friends Like You) and a couple of 7-inch singles to show for it.
The patience has proved beneficial, as they’ve emerged unscathed with the strong opening statement Loose Ends. Spanning 10 tracks, each an ambitious take on guitar rock, the album bursts with contagious energy and a tendency to elongate straightforward pop numbers into knotty space rock jams. It’s an aspirational album played with the confidence of a band multiple records into their career.
When Loose Ends gets loud, it rips with shoegaze squall and soaring alt rock choruses. Opening with “You & I”, a song that’s both heavy and delicate, the album sets its mood with frontman Scotty Cantino’s falsetto and Cantino and Brock Woolsey’s wailing jet engine guitars. On “In the Corners”, arguably the album’s best song, Cantino hits a pained yelp packed with angst. “Big Ideas” continues that aggressive turn with unhinged garage rock energy, but before the album stretches its ferocity too far, the relatively understated “Loaded” balances everything out. With chiming chords and barreling drums, the song is a linear autopsy of a past relationship. Toward the end, it dives into a jam that shows off the band’s tangible chemistry, complete with smart dynamics and intriguing compositions.
It’s a tricky balance, but Francisco the Man intuitively grasp the mix between rock grandeur and quieter moments of introspection. With Loose Ends, they also prove to be experts at molding hooks that, while palatable, rarely verge into a sugar overload. The best example of this is “It’s Not Your Fault”, one of the most infectious tracks on the album. With a distinctly ’90s bounce and a throbbing bass line, the song is close to pop rock perfection, especially in its anthemic chorus. Only on “Progress”, the album’s lead single, does the band venture into overly sweet territory with its falsetto hook. That slight misstep aside, if these newcomers can make a debut album with this many memorable hooks and riffs, their trajectory only points up from here.
Essential Tracks: “Loaded”, “In the Corners”, and “It’s Not Your Fault”