Sarah Rudderow

The Districts ‘Popular Manipulations’

The Districts refined sound mixed with deeper, darker lyrics brings them to a whole new artistic level. Popular Manipulations is the group’s finest opus yet
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Progression in music is fundamental. This is particularly essential in indie rock since there are an excess of bands vying for your consideration. Fortunately, the Philadelphia based alternative rock band, The Districts, garnered a strong following once started playing live gigs. Originally hailing from Lititz, Pennsylvania they self-released their debut record Telephone in 2011. It wasn’t until 2013 when the young quartet found themselves signing with well-known Mississippi indie label, Fat Possum Records. There they released their critically acclaimed sophomore album, A Flourish and a Spoil. Suddenly, the bluesy, Americana rooted, jangly rock crew toured incessantly. This had them acquiring a legion of of loyal fans along the way. Rob Grote (vocals, guitar), Connor Jacobus (bass), Braden Lawrence (drums), and Pat Cassidy (guitar) make up the quartet. They will be releasing their third LP, Popular Manipulations on August 11th.

The Districts’ signature sound has always been from going loud to quiet back to loud. You could hear the intensity, but also see it first hand from lead singer Grote while on stage. For the many supporters, you may be surprised to hear the sonic differences from previous albums. Rest assure the exponential leap is welcoming, impressive, and perhaps even necessary.

With the creation of Popular Manipulations, the indie act has crafted a distinctive sound that will ruminate long after your first listen. The grouping of assaulting guitars, roaring drums, and searing vocals is evident through the course of the eleven memorable tracks. We get underway with ‘If Before I Wake,’ a thunderous opener to shake things up nicely. The swirling single makes great use of churning guitars and flickering synthesizers. With the refreshed textures and shift in monumental sound, The Districts are showing us a different side to them.

Next one is the raucous track entitled ‘Violet.’ It’s a punch to the gut as the song grows with blazing intensity. The driving guitars, pulsating drums, and freshly confident vocals really create something superior here. ‘Ordinary Day,’ the band’s first single off the record, was quite the departure from previous material when first introduced. Opening with the strumming of an acoustic guitar, it swiftly breaks away as the song opens up to full bloom. The powerhouse of a song is an emotional anthem for the band as the lyrics touch up self-lacerating.

‘Salt’ is the breakthrough track here. It’s one that gradually builds up before exploding into something intoxicatingly beautiful. The heart pounding exertion is one of the most original tracks of the year. It easily captures full on catharsis that is evident within the band’s newfound approach to making music. Half way through the album, we get ‘Why Would I Wanna Be,’ a brief retreat from the loud, in your face tactic. This one slows the momentum down and while mostly acoustic, the track really comes off reflective with its repetitious question, What would I wanna be? The tune paints the band in a different light, one that makes them appear to be much wiser than their youthful years (as the members are only 22 years old).

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The Districts strongly hone in on their songwriting abilities. They showcase something much deeper here than simply complaining about the frivolous things in life. Penultimate track ‘Rattling Of The Heart’ is a dark horse pick for best effort. The bold offering gives you all the feels you need in an intricate indie rock song with brimming melodies that remain well beyond its conclusion.

The finale, ‘Will You Please Be Quiet Please?’ is deeply affecting with lyrics that feels like a plea for help. It’s a gripping closer that once again makes you think The Districts are not the same band from a few years ago. Many of the group’s stylistic inclinations have carried over to the new record. However, their refined sound mixed with deeper, darker lyrics brings them to a whole new artistic level. Popular Manipulations is the group’s finest opus yet. It injects new life into a band that already had showcased a multitude of talents leading up to this release.

Popular Manipulations is out on the 11th August 2017 via Fat Possum Records. The full track-listing for the album is as follows…

01. If Before I Wake
02. Violet
03. Ordinary Day
04. Salt
05. Why Would I Wanna Be
06. Point
07. Airplane
08. Fat Kiddo
09. Capable
10. Rattling Of The Heart
11. Will You Please Be Quiet Please