by WestCoast Weasel WestCoast Weasel
May 19, 2010

On Sage’s third (and final) release for Epitaph and/or its subsidiary Anti- he opts for personal introspection, as well as counter fundamentalism.  Enlisting an indie star studded cast of musicians (Califone, Calexico, Sparklehorse, and more) and producer (Brian Deck [Modest Mouse, Iron and Wine]) to pen Li(f)e’s arrangements, we’re left with an abstract record containing words and lyrics from a myriad of positions.

One of the album’s strongest, catchiest tracks “Little Houdini” empathetically recounts a multi-felon’s tale of struggle with the judicial system, his escapes, and family tragedy.  It is a mildly interesting story that works rather well over the acoustic strums and drums alike.  We are, however, ultimately hooked into having sympathy for a grand auto theft who’s losing estranged family members.  Take that for what it is, I guess.

The decision to seek songwriters who’ve yet to work with a rapper and to ignore writing music they think would be appropriate for hip-hop is an interesting move.  Hearing the record before realizing this tactic may leave the listener questioning the beats before them.  I know I did.  But, when one considers that Chris Walla of Death Cab For Cutie’s responsible for the danceable—Gnarls Barkley-esque—“Three Sheets To This Wind,” it does give a new sense of appreciation for the busy tune.  Sage explains that he “wasn’t trying to be no hip-hop god or rap’s ghost, shootin’ to be a rock star” over its gritty electric guitar riff.

To no surprise, digging into the lyrical content of what may not be the most exciting of tracks works in Sage’s favor.  After all, that is his craft.  He attacks religion in “I Was Zero,” carrying a serious sense of conviction with an apt delivery of sarcasm as well.  “The power of a magic trick / Immaculate concepts / Lost in the land of the cross / He’s selling real estate for some place in the clouds” is heard amongst personal favorite lyrics, “I heard God is coming and she’s a screamer.”  While its words are worthy, it lacks any musical panache much like “Diamonds and Pearls,” which unfortunately lacks a little of both.

A catchy, summertime feel grooves on in mid-record thanks to the keys and twangy guitar on “Polterzeitgeist,” while piano, xylophone, choir and percussive sound effects back the poetry of “16 Years.”  The latter’s musical arrangements are revisited again in a similar manner on one the album’s boldest: “The Best of Times.”  Its gold lies in the lyrical jewelry—an overtly personal journey detailing his insecurities as a child and well into his later years as a man.  The gospel-rock of “Love the Lie” delivers the best of both—his speedy, infectious tongue, as well as noteworthy musical arrangement—an otherwise unbalanced vibe on heard in Li(f)e.

Being a fan of both rock and hip-hop, one may think the amalgamation would be attractive two-fold.  I’ve rarely seen it this way whole-heartedly.  The branching out and involving indie-rockers, combined with thought provoking lyrics, today, is as punk rock or against the grain as hip-hop could be.  That said—Sage’s compelling messages are exceedingly more paramount with a more dominant beat behind them.

out of 5 weasels.

Choice cuts: “Little Houdini”, “Love The Lie”, “The Best of Times”

  1. Little Houdini
  2. Three Sheets To The Wind
  3. I Was Zero
  4. Slow Man (FREE MP3)
  5. Diamonds And Pearls
  6. Polterzeitgeitz
  7. The Baby Stays
  8. 16 Years
  9. Worry Not
  10. London Bridge
  11. Love The Lie
  12. The Best Of Times (FREE MP3)

Visit Sage Francis online: myspace.com/sagefrancisstrangefamousrecords.com/lifeanti.com/artists/view/64

Li(f)e promo clip

Never trust a weasel. Support the artist and find out for yourself. WestCoastWeasel.com encourages purchasing Li(f)e locally at Red Cat Records in Vancouver, B.C, any independent record store of your choice or online here.

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