Twelve years have passed since The Districts were formed by four extremely young lads from a little town in Pennsylvania. It was not until 2014 when the then fresh-faced teenagers started to grab the attention of music fans and tastemakers. With their fearless live shows shared on YouTube and an unrelenting tour schedule, The Districts developed a cult following. They were like a young My Morning Jacket, combining feverish, hook-filled indie rock with meaningful and engaging stories. Their debut album, Telephone, which was released during the sophomore year in high school, exuded the maturity of a band twenty years their senior. With songs like “Lyla” and “Funeral Beds”, which remain among the very best rock songs of the 2010s, the teens shared the experiences of feeling isolated and trapped in a small town.
Like every young outfit, changes were experienced. Guitarist Mark Larson left the band to pursue further education, and long-time friend Pat Cassidy joined Rob Grote (vocals, guitar), Conor Jacobus (bass), and Braden Lawrence (drums) to keep the quartet intact. The new foursome ended delivering another rocking LP in A Flourish and a Spoil, which was their first with Fat Possum Records. Its stories focused on the band’s move to Philadelphia, and how the big deals in a small town became the little game in the big city.
As turmoil became a daily part of daily life in the US, The Districts got a little harder and much darker on 2017’s Popular Manipulations. It was an intelligent and thoughtful record. It was music’s equivalent to a thesis. The album also represented the start of an evolution with the four-piece branching out to new sounds and spaces. Last year’s You Know I’m Not Going Anywhere built on its predecessor with its vast musical range – from disco-pop to intimate folk-rock to euphoric pop-rock. Despite the new soundscapes, The Districts stuck to their roots, delivering genuine messages, specifically about the importance of staying united in difficult moments.
Their albums have also reflected the mood of the times. It is not a coincidence that their first record burst with energy and their most recent one was more sombre in tone. So with a new administration in the White House and a world uneasily trying to live with a pandemic, what would The Districts deliver? It’s hard to draw definitive conclusion because their fifth album, Great American Painting, is still nearly five months away. But if history is any indication, we can count of them capturing the relief, hope, and uncertainty of the past 20 months. All three of these emotions are captured on the LP’s lead single, “I Want to Feel It All”.
The song once again represents a band continuing to change. Potentially inspired by touring with Future Islands and influenced by their time with Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade, Operators, Divine Fits) and Britt Daniel (Spoon, Divine Fits), the now trio delve in synth-driven pop-rock. And the result is blissful catharsis. The number is reinvigorating and energizing, resembling the feelings we experienced when we first emerged out of the shadows of lockdowns and isolation. It is the anthem to a re-awakening, to our resurrection. Grote’s lyrics once again perfectly capture this moment:
“I wanna live like a blown out sun
A meteor burning up, crushing through the heavens
Like a supernova, the glow I know the void
In love with everyone, I’ll be your atmosphere”
Rob Grote (vocals/guitar), Pat Cassidy (guitar), and Braden Lawrence (drums) will be touring across the US and Europe, beginning in two weeks and extending into the first quarter of 2022. Dates and ticket information are available here.
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