It’s My Li(f)e
With a bold title like Li(f)e, listeners can expect a lot from Sage Francis’ latest release. The indie rapper explores his past, present, and future over a diverse selection of musical styles, ranging from folk-twinged hip-hop to pop-punk in the first two tracks alone. He’s aided by a number of excellent guests, such as Calexico, Buck 65, Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse and DeVotchKa. Also present are a variety of interesting characters and stories that give Li(f)e a panoptic quality. It has its ups and downs, but overall it’s definitely worth a listen.
Unfortunately, after the aforementioned opening tracks, the album quickly settles into a groove of all-too-familiar sounding indie hip-hop. The same guitar-accented beats with the same cliché-filled rhymes again and again drag the album to a halt. Starting with “I Was Zero” and going through “The Baby Stays,” there’s nothing new or exciting with the low point coming in “Diamonds and Pearls,” when Francis raps, “I have found that life is cliché,” an extremely disheartening admission.
The album, however, makes a left turn into some very creative territory with “Worry Not,” a rollicking, soulful tune highlighted by a crowded bar sing-along chorus. Just when all hope appeared to be lost, the album picks up energy and each of the songs that follows is more interesting.
“London Bridge” contains the most poignant lyric of the entire album: “The Earth will inherit the meek/When Canada puts up a wall because their medicine’s so cheap.”
Francis saves his best for last, ending the album on a high note with “The Best of Times,” a very personal song that features Francis demonstrating his considerable lyrical ability. It’s one of a few songs that reward the listener for sticking with this inconsistent album.