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Breaking pop’s heart

Christopher Francis & Son strips things down to the bare essentials

Christopher Francis

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Christopher Francis & Son already sounds like a band that’s too big to talk to me. The first song of theirs that I heard (“Coinlocker Baby”) had that kind of breathtaking quality that seemed to announce the arrival of a new year-end best-of candidate. The moody vocals and acoustic guitar backed by the intoning, metronome-like kick drum enveloped the song and created something greater than the sum of its parts. Their music reveals a playful pop-mastery and a willingness to strip the format down to its bare essentials.

Christopher Francis & Son began as a solo project, but recently filled out to a three-piece. “I went in with an idea of how it was supposed to sound,” Christopher Francis says, referring to the formation of the full band, “and it totally changed into something way crazier and way more intense, and, actually, way more engaging, it seems, to people who see us play.”

But even with a fuller sound, Francis still values the importance of lean songwriting.

“I’ve always operated with this mentality that if the song can’t be stripped to, say, just a guitar and voice or just a piano and voice, then it isn’t a particularly good song,” says Francis. “That’s still true for me, but with the band it’s taking those elements and blowing them out of proportion into these huge pieces that take over everything.”

There’s a video on YouTube of Francis from back in his solo days. He stands onstage with a cello in his hands and a kick drum at his feet and sings a cover of the R&B new classic, “Nikki”.  Before beginning, he makes sure to tell the audience that he’s “not singing this ironically.” He then proceeds to stomp on the stage, torture his cello with harshly plucked chords, and belt out the declaration he’s been makin’ love to Nikki.

It’s representative, I think, of his music as a whole. Christopher Francis knows there’s a heart to every song, and he aims to break it.

[Northern, Christopher Francis & Son with Two Ton Boa, Magick Daggers, Friday, Dec. 11, 8 p.m., all ages, $7, 321 Fourth Ave., Olympia,]

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