Song of the Day: Sage Francis – The Best of Times

photo by Anthony St. James

photo by Anthony St. James

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday we deliver songs by local artists. Today’s selection is “The Best of Times” from Sage Francis from the 2010 album Li(f)e on Anti-.

Sage Francis – The Best of Times (MP3)

Rhode Island might not be where one would expect a powerhouse in the contemporary spoken word hip-hop movement to hail from, but Sage Francis has been touting conceptual albums and challenging ideological mores since 2002 with Personal Journals where he criticizes a post 9/11 America. In 2010’s Li(f)e, he tackles the issue of organized religion, and plays on the interchangeability of the two words life and lie. The album is heavy with indie rock cred — produced by Brian Deck, best known for his work with Modest Mouse — and songs on the record have collaborations with Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla, Jason Lytle of Grandaddy, members of Calexico, and the late Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse.

“Best of Times” was inspired by a letter Paul “Sage” Francis had written a few years ago to a girlfriend. The opening line to the song is in fact the first line of the letter itself. The song emerges from a reminiscent, conversational piece backed by chimes and minimal instrumentation into an intense score courtesy of film composer Yann Tiersen. All at once the song becomes cinematic, emotionally building and speeding up beneath Sage Francis’ revealing narrative about growing pains, becoming comfortable in his own skin, and growing up, and ironically calling it “The Best of Times.”

This may be a swan song for Francis, whose hard work touring, writing and acting as CEO of his own independent record label Strange Famous Records has been wearing on him. His US tour continues for a few more months before he hightails it to the European leg of his tour. We just missed him here in Seattle, but check out the remainder of the dates on his MySpace page.

Check out the newly released video for our Song of the Day:

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