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CD of The Week

Week of 8/14/17

    The Districts - Popular Manipulations (Fat Possum)

    In part, it seems amazing that hometown heroes The Districts have only just released their third full length. But at this point in the ride of their already-impressive time in the music industry, Popular Manipulations makes perfect sense. Their music has grown along with them, splaying out in all directions with new textures but surging with the same unbridled intensity. Together, Rob Grote, Braden Lawrence, Pat Cassidy, and Connor Jacobus have woven together a radiantly amplified diary of a young man circling the drain of constant transition. Losing much of the Americana grit of the past and replacing it with tightened articulation from producer John Congleton, the album is bigger and bolder than anything they've done before.

    Amongst the collection of gently jarring songs, a dynamic diversity is at play between the stormy metaphors. Both "Violet" and "If Before I Wake" propel forward with an unwavering momentum but maintain a hypnotic ebb and flow by strategically adding and removing layers. Bolstering quiet, otherwise fully-acoustic tracks like "Fat Kiddo" with everything from flute to guitar tremolos emboldens the distinct imagery of the lyrics.

    Singer Rob Grote provides intimate and recognizable snapshots of his daily life, transforming the mundane and specific into a sentiment and a feeling more profound. The emptiness and potential opposing each other in the rising struggle of "Capable" is felt strongly in the contradictory phrases of the refrain. "Rattling of the Heart" accumulates fragmented snapshots of death, drinks, and unfinished jokes that jangle to the unsettling buzz of the erratic melody. The songs of this particular album seem to find Grote constantly sending messages. In the cases of "Why Would I Wanna Be" and "Point," the thump and ethereal hums seem like a message all their own.

    Popular Manipulations' moments of excitement, uncertainty, love, and thought all crash together in the sway of massive choruses. The album firmly grasps what the quartet have learned and hurls it back into an oscillating fan of guitar tones and restless wonderings. They are taking strides forward that will only further ignite the frenzy of their live shows and the imaginative spirit of their full bore whir.

    The Districts' album release show has just passed but they will be backing Daniel Johnston at his show at The Tower Theater on October 4th.
    Review by Shana Hartzel

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