Chicago’s Fran are releasing their third album single, “Palm Trees” today. Fran’s songwriter, Maria Jacobson, evokes the imagery of a burning palm tree as she wrestles with the catastrophes of climate disaster. The song was born out of a 2019 article that stated the world had a year and a half to figure out climate change. The implications of this song coming out in 2022, with that benchmark, and each one before it, far gone, lends “Palm Trees” a somber tone. Jacobson’s mesmerizing vocals mingle with Ben Boye’s deft piano alongside the swirling chorus of Macie Stewart’s violin, and Whitney Johnson’s viola, disguising the lament at the heart of “Palm Trees”. Throughout Fran’s new album Leaving, Jacobson lays bare her despair for the world she once knew; without the power to change the trajectory of collapse, she’s pleading deeply. Jacobson is eulogizing the world she knew as she watches it slip further away each passing day.

On the song Jacobson says; “I wrote “Palm Trees” during a hot summer in 2019 after reading an article about how we only had 18 months to “figure out” climate change. That deadline has long since passed, and our inaction has drawn us closer to some unknown scary future where we can’t guarantee what reality will be outside our front doors. So, “Palm Trees” is a plea. It’s about holding on to what I understand, wishing the natural world could stay how I remember it.”

Fran’s debut album, A Private Picture, which was released in November of 2019 garnered praise from Pitchfork, NPR Music, Stereogum, Paste Magazine, The Chicago Reader, Bandcamp and many more. Fran’s sophomore album, Leaving, will be out on January 20th via Fire Talk Records. On their new record Fran sort through grief and anxieties around accelerating climate change and the uncertain future we’re collectively facing. Jacobson, the songwriter and multi-instrumentalist behind Fran, uses her sophomore album as a vehicle for acceptance; turning from the easily obsessable darkness and looking to faith; faith in humanity, faith in our shared struggle, faith in something larger than us all, to move forward.

Jacobson announced Fran’s sophomore album with “Limousine”, in which she yearns for a future of simple pleasures. A plodding beat with flourishes of violin and viola, courtesy of Macie Stewart and Whitney Johnson, respectively, building slowly while Jacobson’s stunning vocal delivery rises and falls with the track. As it nears it’s final chorus the string section builds, reserving it’s heft for this final climax, builds into one final, somber, fade. “Limousine” is a call for comfort in the unknowable; gleaning from the unending chaos that we’re all in on something much bigger than ourselves.

Fran’s Maria Jacobson is once again joined by Ashley Guerrero, Jake Acosta, and Bret Koontz, who played throughout the band’s debut. Jacobson called on friends of the Chicago music scene for her sophomore album with Brian Sulpizio on guitar, Macie Stewart and Whitney Johnson on strings, Jeff Kimmel on clarinet, Ben Boye and Ben McFadden on keys, Carolina Chauffe, Emme Williams, and Sulpizio on backup vocals, and Jacobson herself on flute. Leaving was recorded by Brian Sulpizio between Palisade Studios, Jamdek, the offices of Numero Group, and Sulpizio’s home studio. The album was mastered by Greg Obis at Chicago Mastering Service.

Tour Dates

​​2/10 - Chicago, IL @ Constellation

On their second album, Leaving, Fran finds us at a crossroads of loss and possibility, borne from the grief of isolation and the existential drama of a warming planet. In spite of this grief, songwriter Maria Jacobson took the solitude of the past few years to commit to seeing reality clearly. Jacobson was inspired by Alan Watts’ Wisdom of Insecurity, which examines the difference between belief and faith: the former inviting constriction and holding on; the latter, presence and letting go. Jacobson sought to let go of the roles and ambitions that had previously defined her.

“I’m not the same as I was when we started,” she states plainly on “God,” welcoming the “certain change” that all humans must face. During quarantine she started taking online theology classes to understand how humans had made sense of their lives throughout time. In her curiosity that blends into the stained glass piecing of her songwriting, Jacobson began seeing everything around her as possible religions: social media, family, capitalism, individualism, science. These belief systems help people understand the world: our emptiness, our connectedness, and our purpose.

Leaving’s resulting mixture of instrumentals swells and bursts and sometimes lays completely bare, like a heartbeat or an open field. Jacobson’s voice enters each song like a vine wrapping around an idea. The songs often start with only a couple words, then pause, boldly identifying a time, season, place. She connects the listener with a familiar landscape or image, something grounding between moments of anxiety. On “Winter,” a dish towel, pressed flowers, snow-covered hay become beautiful, but fleeting flagships: meditations on noticing and letting go.

Her quest takes her through the trials of a fading relationship in “How Did We”, cheekily dividing vulnerable vocals with a pop song. To the tune of “fate, hey hey…”, she deconstructs a breakup bop into a philosophical question. It blends into “How Did I”, a one-take acoustic track, warmed by droning clarinets and gentle background vocals, that examines the gravity of confronting these big questions alone. Statements that seem simple become spot-on, powerful in Jacobson's restraint and careful introspection — “how did I ask for everything or anything? / how did I keep you waiting or staying?” She finally finds peace in the solitude of a cross-country train ride, something that Jacobson likes to do as often as she can.

“Palm Trees'' imagines an underground bunker and palm trees on fire, as a “cold front approaches.” It pleads, “how can I give it away, wanting it to last another day?” She finds herself trying to hold on to the natural world she thought she understood. Pairing delicate vocals and flute flutters with more grunge-indebted guitar on “The Label,” Jacobson documents her experience of living and walking around in Chicago. She notices its natural bioluminescence more acutely when no one is around. A “neon lawn” and “glowing rose” burn brighter with fewer cars on the road or planes in the sky.

Accompanied by jagged strings of inching anxiety, in “Limousine” Jacobson wonders aloud: “I get worried, what if we can’t let each other out? And we all say the same old things we always say.” The fear of complacency rushes against the force of the beat. There’s a dream of sitting on the grass, reading. It’s a simple hope for the future: to rest, and to be together. The spirited culmination of strings and electric guitars highlight the release and joy of this quiet reality, if we are able to see that we are already living it.

On the record’s ultimate song, Fran declares “I know you” and seeks to mean it. Her quiet trepidation alludes to the passage of Jesus, where he declared: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Jacobson evokes in her music a search for compassion, and a starting point to take an honest look at where we are headed. In the face of disaster and destruction, sometimes all it takes is a singular voice to hold steady. We may not know what we are doing, but the knowledge that we are all tied to the same universal thread could hold the key to the future.

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