Review Summary: Breaking through with an emotional magnum opus like it's nothing.
The Districts burst onto my radar in 2017, with Popular Manipulations
’ heart-wrenching, firmly rock-rooted brand of folk punk rattling me to my core. They clearly poured their heart into that record, which ended up feeling like a night on the town, drunk off your ass but just knowing
you could win your ex back if you could only find the right words. It was the kind of album that ached with you in times of sorrow, and grew to become a daily companion. It was all very real, and very rooted in present pain.
You Know I’m Not Going Anywhere
is a different kind of record. It’s still evocative of all these same images: ‘Hey Jo’ wails with the despair of a tear-jerking breakup, ‘Changing’ is a sweepingly sorrowful anthem that hints at the underlying anxiety of the title (“Like some freight elevator slowly sinking deep underground…I can't keep on singing, everybody's changing”), and ‘4th of July’ offers up some downright beautiful morbidity (“We left our bodies on the bank / and when the tide came in they sank / into the blue moon’s glow…”). The core atmosphere of gloom and anguish is just as palpable as ever – but whereas Popular Manipulations
stumbled out of a bar, You Know I’m Not Going Anywhere
projects its pain onto the big screen. It’s almost cinematic in its progression and production, beaming with a glistening sheen that makes it all sound more histrionic and ambitious than anyone knew The Districts could be.
As such, You Know I’m Not Going Anywhere
is by far the band’s most sonically adventurous recording to date. ‘Sidecar’ crashes through the wall at a breakneck pace that explodes with waves of energetic guitar work, falsetto wails, and melodic oohs
, while ‘All The Horses Go Swimming’ opens with an accordion that gradually wades into a crystalline pool of string-bound ambience. ‘Descend’ ranks among their most lucid sounding acoustic tracks, each pastoral guitar pluck ringing out with the clarity of a Sufjan folk ballad – all before the entire thing exits into a swirling vortex of whooshing effects and vocal hums. ‘Dancer’ shakes and rattles with strong Eastern vibes that are quickly joined by start-stop synth interjects. Opener ‘My Only Ghost’ almost sounds like a Fleet Foxes hymnal. The spectrum of influences here would be ridiculous if it weren’t for the fact that lead vocalist Rob Grote ties it all together so perfectly with his trademark emotive croons and howls.
The District’s fourth full-length LP marks a new chapter in their career. It sees them emerge from the dark, murky corners of Popular Manipulations
with a newfound vigor accompanied by aural dynamics that never used to exist within their music. This thing is momentous; it’s as if they took the depressing air of Frightened Rabbit, swirled it with The National’s penchant for huge crescendos, and then executed it all with the bombast of a Killers’ album. It doesn’t necessarily feel as tattered or heart-on-sleeve as the group’s earlier works, but it’s also far more entertaining. You Know I’m Not Going Anywhere
is a breakthrough for The Districts, and it’s already one of the best albums to be released this year.