Album Review: Adam French - 'The Back Foot And The Rapture'
Adam French’s debut is incredible. Despite evidence to the contrary, I have no words.
Adam French, a self-taught multi-instrumentalist from Cheshire, uses his distinct voice to weave haunting melodies and powerful lyrics over deceptively simple music that results in stunning tracks that have resulted in countless sold out shows as well as touring slots with both Jake Bugg and Jacob Banks. This, ‘The Back Foot and the Rapture’, is his debut album, combining works from his previous EPs, as well as revamped versions of earlier works and some brand new tracks. It comes out at the same time as the recent announcement that his single, ‘Slow Dancing’, is being released exclusively for Record Store Day 2019.
Now, onto said album. The album opens with the stunningly, hauntingly atmospheric ‘Weightless’ and his most successful single to date, with it being tweeted about by both Brit and Grammy award winner Dua Lipa and pop heavy-weight and all around icon Kylie Minogue. The song is intensely personal, lyrically. Listening to it, one can’t help but feel intrinsically connected to the song and, through it, Adam. It’s arguably about love and loss, two sides of the same coin in an ever-changing relationship. But the lyrics ‘only you can make me Weightless’ could be sung as much to listeners as to the inspiration for the track. In fact, the song seems almost aware of itself, in that the song is able to take you out of your surroundings and let you soar along Adam’s lofty vocals. To sum it up nicely, it’s an isolating and somber masterpiece.
After comes ‘My Addiction’, which to be fair would be a very apt name for the album itself once you listen to it enough. ‘My Addiction’ is one of my personal highlights of the album and is still one of my favourites of Adam’s, despite the countless (and brilliant) releases over the last few years. It’s heart-wrenching without being sad; it has drums, powerful vocals and some amazing lyrics. What more could you want?
After is ‘The Only Living Thing’, one of the most recent singles released. ‘The track is about realisation, that everything you previously had was all that you ever needed and more’ Adam explains. ‘Two people sharing the same pain, coming to terms with the fact that they might need to look backwards in order to move forwards.’ The song, despite being another beautifully crafted song with some melancholically romantic lyrics, is strangely uplifting, a nice contrast to the two tracks before it!
This is followed by ‘Coco’, the only previously unreleased song on the album, if discounting reworked versions of some older tunes. And honestly? I believe this is my favourite of the lot. It’s upbeat — comparatively so, anyway — and it’s very easy to get lost into, between the simplicity of its chorus and the brilliance of its melodies: especially the refrain of ‘don’t say you loved me by mistake’. I genuinely love the song and can’t wait to hear it live.
Then comes ‘Keep It Together’, the most recent single. It’s the most upbeat and lively on the album, despite still possessing a rather serious message. ‘It’s a self-help song... you’ve just got to persevere’, Adam explains, on a recent post on Instagram. A song about keeping it together through moments of difficulty and hardship, of not giving in, it’s a credit to Adam that he can create a song sounding so upbeat on the same album as ‘Weightless’.
Next up is the first reworked track, ‘More To Life’, originally released on the eponymous ‘More To Life’ EP. It’s been revamped with more noticeable drums and a slightly more rhythmically based sound running throughout, and the track is all the better for it. It’s less raw, perhaps, but it still possesses that same innate infectiousness as the original whilst being simply fresher as a track. It’s a song about losing out on life being preoccupied with trivialities and stresses.
After is ‘You From The Rest’, a dark and brooding track about the benefits of cutting toxic people out of your life. The melodies are constantly changing: shifting and moulding themselves around the lyrics and the track underneath, asking ‘how do I know / You from the rest’ as much to the track as to the listeners. When it first came out, it didn’t immediately grab me, but after a few listens it becomes an intricate powerhouse of a song.
Then comes ‘The Rat’, a cover of the Walkmen’s noughties punk classic. It retains all of the original’s strength as a track but adds a touch of delicacy and Adam’s uniquely enamouring voice. The song is a classic but through this cover Adam makes it his own, with strings and bursts of passion.
After is the second of the revamped tracks, this being ‘Ivory’. The original is haunting, beautiful and for fans, iconic. This new version is all that and more. For one, the lyrics are a little more coherent! I’m a little embarrassed to say that on first listening to this new version I was shown just how wrong I was when singing along to the original. Originally written in 2014, when touring Africa, the song is written from the viewpoint of an elephant being hunted for its ivory. It’s a stunning song, both before and now.
And now we come to the final three tracks. First is ‘Incompatible’, another beautiful and haunting track and another personal favourite. I first heard this back in 2017, at the Communion Christmas Clubnight, and I was blown away; the studio version is just as good if not more so. The song is almost elegiac in term, mourning a relationship already past the point of no return, yet is intrinsically heartbreaking, hoping that somehow they can make it work.
The penultimate track is ‘Wanna Be Here’. When this song came out, I was genuinely jubilant. I’d been waiting for the song for a comfortable two and a bit years, having first heard it at St Stephen’s Church in Shepherd’s Bush London as part of Communion’s ‘New Faces’ tour. And, after easily another fifty listens, it’s still incredible. Starting with the slightly distorted sound of said guitar and some gentle, wordless exclamations sounding both inconsolably downtrodden and cautiously optimistic, it builds the pathos of the song before any words can be sung; when they are, with Adam promising to a loved one that he’s there to help them, to ‘solve all [their] problems’ and asking why they’ve changed, it becomes devastatingly emotional. ‘“Wanna be here’ is a song about the difference between happiness and comfort”, he says, explaining the meaning of the track. ‘“It’s important to share life with somebody that makes you happy and brings out the best in you... and it’s never too late to cut loose from those who don’t.” If you only listen to one song on the album, let it be this one.
Finally, the revamped version of ‘Punchbag Love’, a beautiful Piano ballad with the same lyrical tone as ‘Wanna Be Here’: having everything ‘taken out’ on you, and suffering the pain out of love and necessity. ‘Know that you’ve got my hands here to break your fall / nothing’s gonna change that’. It has a longer intro, and a few changes here and there, but fundamentally it’s still as wonderful a song as the original, one perfect for soundtracking a toxic relationship or a breakup. Especially poignant are the repeated outbursts of ‘that’s all you need’ towards the end: promising to do anything possible for the partner despite knowing the pain that it’ll cause you.
And that’s the album, but these words don’t do it justice. Go listen.
Words by James O’Sullivan