Frances Cone Awakens with Resourceful Confessions on 'Late Riser'
Whether brooding and ghostly or defiant, eclectic, and rambunctious, Frances Cone's Late Riser is filled with melodious poeticisms and gripping arrangements.
18 January 2019
In an industry focused on quick turnarounds and commercial expectations, Nashville singer-songwriter Christina Cone is an anomaly, as she chooses instead to wait and work patiently until her next artistic vision is fully realized. Hence the title of Late Riser, her soulful indie-pop full-length follow-up to 2013's debut album, Come Back. Recorded under her newfound guise, Frances Cone, and alongside her partner, "drummer-turned-bassist" Andrew Doherty, the relatable collection delivers its confessional and exploratory themes via a characteristic merger of singer-songwriter sparseness and resourcefully full-bodied arrangements. Thus, its disordered and calm in equal measures and familiarizes the duo as a poignantly creative team.
Officially, Cone explains that the LP is about "giving yourself time to create, rest, and grow while also being frantically afraid of its speed", as well as "the impermanence of time" (i.e., living in the present and being weary of the future). The original plan was for her remain a solo artist as Frances Cone (named after her father and great-grandfather), but when she met Doherty, she knew he had to be involved because he was her "partner in several ways", not the least of which was as a producer and sporadic songwriting foil. Influenced by Chopin, Rufus Wainwright, Justin Vernon, and Patti Griffin—to name a few—Cone and Doherty use traditional and atypical methods to bring Late Riser to life; luckily, the gestation period proves quite justified.
"Wide Awake" and "All Along" bookend the sequence, respectfully, by introducing the beneficially empty and ethereal side of Late Riser. Modest percussion, keyboards, and sundry evocative trappings do add some heft, but they are showcases for Cone's multilayered angelic wisps, as they are beautifully chilling in their abandonment and urgency. Afterward, "Unraveling" is warmer and more folksy, with great use of male/female vocal duality, while "Arizona" keeps the pair's earthly singing at the forefront and places rustic guitarwork and reverberated percussion beneath its evolution. As for the ballad "Easy Love", it easily ranks as the best of the ten songs due to how Cone radiates accessible devastation above her scant yet painful and dissonant soundscape.
Of course, the busier selections on Late Riser are on par with their quieter counterparts. For instance, "Failure" evokes Great Northern and the Great Depression as it bustles along with touches of Americana and '60s pop surrealism—strings, harps, and the like—and the title track digs up rebellious self-esteem in its dusty duet. The stilted electronica within the downtrodden "All for the Best" certainly works, too, as does the off-kilter collage of instruments and effects surrounding the heavenly core of "Waterline". That said, the penultimate "Over Now" is perhaps the greatest display of gradual dynamic shifts on the whole thing, as it builds smoothly from near a cappella to chaotic catharsis.
Whether brooding and ghostly or defiant, eclectic, and rambunctious, Late Riser is filled with melodious poeticisms and gripping arrangements. Cone has certainly grown as a performer and scribe, and the upfront technical skills of Doherty— in addition to the multifaceted support he no doubt provides behind-the-scenes—are invaluable in bringing her odes to life. Let's hope that it doesn't take the duo another half-decade to produce a third effort, but if it's on the same level as Late Riser, it'll surely be worth the wait if it does.