It’s finally here! The Districts’ third album, Popular Manipulations, came out on August 11, 2017.
The Districts is an indie rock band formed in 2009 by four high school kids from Lititz, Pennsylvania. Songs like Funeral Beds, and Long Distance, from their freshman album, Telephone, brought The Districts under the public eye. With several tours and two albums under their belt, Popular Manipulations is their most recent project. This record is a clear reflection of their growth as song writers and musicians, as well as the personal growth and struggles that go along with it.
When the singles, “If Before I Wake” and “Ordinary Day”, were released, I have to admit I was a bit wary and unsure of the road they were taking. Even though these tracks still feel somewhat out of place in the composition of the album, they make more sense now as a whole. “If Before I Wake” is the beginning track which starts with a low rumble-like chant of the chorus, which quickly builds into the energy of the rest of the song, setting the stage for the album. The distorted guitar riffs, and melodic tension and restraints, and explosions are a revolving theme throughout.
Following “If Before I Wake” is one of my favorite tracks, “Violet”. The guitar and the tempo throughout are catchy and lead to a very District-like explosion of guitars at its peak. Throughout the album, the Districts touch on topics such as manipulations and possessiveness. Violet is a song where this theme is shouted throughout with singer Rob Grote screaming out verses like “Violet, you’re mine”, “What doesn’t last is good to miss”, “What doesn’t last gets swallowed whole”.
Another favorite is the fourth track, “Salt”. It starts off with a quiet piano that is quickly contrasted by distorted guitars and reverberating vocals that accentuate the clashing theme of heart break and hopelessness. All these anxieties come together and create frustrations that can be felt. “I could keep you company while it heals / But would you try to break my heart?”, “I thought you were hopeful / Until you burn out”.
Halfway through the LP we find “Why would I Wanna Be” and “Point” which are two contrasting sounds. The first being an acoustic love song that feels like the calm before the storm that is “Point”. In a blink of an eye, we find ourselves in“Point”, a song that starts aggressively with heavy frustration, which continues to get unleashed throughout .“The point is beside the point now” gets screamed loudly until it gets almost drowned out by the rest of the instruments. The frustration and anxiety continue in “Airplane”. In this track filled with melodic pushing and pulling, Grote channels some good ol’ Interpol through vocals and guitar rhythms.
A surprising track on the album is “Fat Kiddo”, a song that debuted on the bands’ Soundcloud page in 2015 as a demo. After hearing their Audiotree live session in 2016, it was a treat to see this song finally released on an album.
Overall the album has several high points in songs like Violet, Salt, and Airplane. It’s an album with a constant build up and release of frustrations, something that has become a common pattern in past songs by the band but crafted more maturely in this album. As a whole, there are some misses and incoherence’s with songs that fall out of place, but there is an overall growth that can be heard throughout the album that helps bring it together. Definitely a fan.
Fat Possum Records