Over the summer, I attended a show in a Humboldt Park backyard. The headliner of the evening was an artist called Fran. I was drawn in immediately to the melancholy-pop of the trio which reminded me a bit of Angel Olsen at the time. Fran isn’t the most SEO-friendly name out there (here’s their Facebook page to save you some time) so it wasn’t until I saw that Lake Paradise was putting out an EP of theirs that I was reacquainted with their work.
Fran is primarily the work of singer / songwriter Maria Jacobson. Throughout most of the five songs on More Enough, her voice seamlessly weaves between tenor and falsetto, cracking slightly and purposefully. Her wide vocal range is in no small thanks to her musical theater background, as she divulged in an interview on Sixty Inches From Center. After learning guitar and growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of freedom in theater, Jacobson shifted her focus onto writing music. She traveled to Mexico to teach English which also offered a lot of free time to work on her craft.
The most common RIYL point of reference is Aimee Mann and Jacobson says as much in the interview. “Aimee Mann does this thing with her songs where they are so simple and tight, but explode into melodies that unfold in this breathtaking way.” Jacobson replicates this songwriting style on the album closer ‘In Between’ which had me checking Spotify to make sure I wasn’t accidentally playing Bachelor No. 2 (Or, the Last Remains of the Dodo) instead of More Enough.
“I Know” reminded me a bit of Sea Change-era Beck with more reverb. “I feel that I’ve been at the mercy of a current / I feel that I have spent my evening doing someone else’s bidding,” Jacobson sings. That feeling of drifting along a current washes over the rest of the song as layers of background vocals swallow her vocals whole.
The five-songs on the EP are introspective anthems made for rainy days. The gradually increasing tempo in ‘Parking Lot’ gives the song a nervous energy. “I wrote it down, I wrote it down and read / I tore it up, I tore it up instead / And threw it all away / Because that’s what I do.” “Threw it all away” into “that’s what I do” repeats throughout the song, perhaps a symbol for the actions we know are wrong or against our best interest, but keep repeating over and over anyway.
When asked about common themes of her work, Jacobson responded that she is often “trying to understand a feeling…How can I understand these feelings and accept them as a part of life?” It’s not always easy to confront these parts of one’s life, accepting that our actions are not always right or as we intended. As Fran, Jacobson carries these complicated feelings through melodic hooks and lyrical narratives to let you know you’re not alone.
Fran celebrates the EP release with a show at the Empty Bottle on Tuesday, December 5. Richard Album and Softette open, 21+, 9 PM, $5. The EP will be released as a limited edition of 100 cassettes.