In Albums Of The Year, A.V. Club staffers write about a record that defined 2016 for us. Maybe it isn’t the year’s absolute best record—or even our No. 1 favorite—but it’s one that, without it, music would have been a whole lot less interesting.
Francis And The Lights, Farewell, Starlite!
Endorsements of Francis And The Lights come from way up the pop-music power structure: Ever since Drake drafted the electro-pop act to produce a track for Thank Me Later, Francis Farewell Starlite (it’s his legal name, no joke) has popped up on stage and on record with Bon Iver and Chance The Rapper, and no less than Kanye West blessed Francis’ 2016 album, Farewell, Starlite!, with the present of his presence. In the video for “Friends,” West performs some light choreography and lip-syncing; on “My Citys Gone,” his digitally manipulated guest vocals call back to the pomp and melancholy of 808s & Heartbreaks and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
Farewell, Starlite! feels steeped in those two landmarks of raw human emotion voiced and scrambled through Pro Tools plug-ins. But as it’s been since he adopted the moniker, Francis And The Lights remains a distinct expression of its sole member, the guy turning coos into choirs with proprietary harmonizer software and pulling dance moves that go against the recommendations of nine out of 10 chiropractors. Even at their slinkiest and sweatiest—like the herky-jerky synth-soul of “I Want You To Shake”—the songs of Farewell, Starlite! are earnest to a fault. They have titles like “It’s Alright To Cry” and “Thank You”; “May I Have This Dance” could easily pass for So-era Peter Gabriel. It’s a vulnerability that Francis And The Lights synthesizes into strength, standing tall in front of a shimmering electronic skyline. Such heart-on-sleeve tactics made Francis And The Lights a darling of sensitive superstars, and in 2016, they made Francis his own superstar.