Album Review: JW Francis // WANDERKID

Only a year after the defining, critically acclaimed release of ‘We Share a Similar Joy’, JW Francis returns with yet another collection of tracks that take us on a raw, emotive journey.

For any artist, the ability to create relatable output is fuelled by the life experiences they have encountered and absorbed. For JW, the ambience of metropolitan hustle and bustle – in New York and Paris- shapes the subject of each track. While the rural remoteness he found through his younger years in Oklahoma and Vermont has undoubtedly created the space needed to perfect the dream-pop soundscape that has entitled JW to such high acclaim thus far.

WANDERKID‘s titular single sees JW further examine the mundane experiences of his current New York setting. Throughout such themes are simultaneously elevated, obscured and perfectly embedded within expertly executed lo-fi guitar and encircling drum tracks that amplify the emotional semblance, tensions and contradictions found in the lyricism. On ‘Maybe’, a breezy beat-driven tune, the frustrations of not being able to find time to meet your friends are expressed in a reassuring tone. The looping simplicity of ‘I love you’ evokes the type of feelings drunken night buses with friends incite: where the deep bliss of being surrounded by people you love is undercut with the apprehension that things change, and these moments are only fleeting. ‘Make Another Record’ wavers between intense exclamation and calm cooing – expressing a similar sentimental longing you’d find scrawled on the back of a postcard.

The charm of JW lies in his ability to be deeply personal and penetratingly observational whilst remaining whimsical. However, the second half of the album demonstrates a juxtaposing slower-paced, introspective side that shines with an ambivalence previously unexplored by JW. Opening with – ‘sometimes I feel like I’m dying, or like I’ve done my most, I’m inexplicably happy, cause maybe I’m a ghost’ – on ‘I’m Probably a Ghost’ there’s tug of war between the universal struggle to stay present, appreciating life’s success as they come, and the widely felt, incessant worrying for the future. Album closer, ‘Cars’ is the most beautifully noteworthy track of the whole album. Stripping back to soft guitar strums and an ethereal female backing vocal, JW demonstrates that he can also delicately deliver frank honesty that is just as captivating as his playfulness on the rest of the album. Whether this hints at a new direction in the future, who knows? What is certain is that ‘Wanderkid’ has cemented JW’s sound and firmly places him in the realm of lof-fi greats.


JW Francis’ WANDERKID is out now, and is available to buy or download here.

Feature image courtesy of Emma Fernandez/Press

Author avatar
Daisy Woodley

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