Frank Smith: Before You Were Born

Frank Smith is not a man. Well, I’m sure he’s a man somewhere, but not in this band. No, this is the brainchild of Aaron Sinclair, who relocated here to Austin from the similar-sounding Boston back in 2007. And frankly (hehe), it makes sense. The countryish, rootsy, folk-rock offered up on Before You Were Born fits right in here (as does the plaid in their press photos) in ways that I’m sure were a bit more foreign to Boston (though I can’t be sure). Before You Were Born is the group’s fifth LP – or eighth, depending on how you count things – but its third since moving to town. Apparently their earlier efforts were heavily countrified. I don’t know, I haven’t heard them. But I can speak to Before You Were Born, and it is definitely an awesome record.

Frank Smith - 'A Decline'

Frank Smith give me a really strong Local Natives vibe all across this record. Nearly every word is sung in harmony, and there is little to no distortion on any of the guitars. Yet, they aren’t knock-offs and carry many influences throughout the record. “A Decline,” for example, sounds almost like Interpol unplugged, if such a thing existed. It has a similar propulsive drive to it and ringing dual guitar leads. Album highlight “Fire Sleepin'” strongly recalls the grittiness of Steve Earle, and absolutely slays from start to finish (with an awesome horn part, and you regular readers know how much I love an awesome horn part). So many tracks on this album are re-listenable, and Frank Smith really aren’t afraid to explore their arrangements in extended instrumental passages. Lead track “Monsters” ends with a lengthy musical outro, as does “Been 4 Months, Feels Like 5,” and while they rarely contain solos, they’re always still utterly engaging passages. As the album’s name suggests, the music recalls earlier country and roots influences (they’d make a great bill with Austinites Sad Accordions in that respect), but also still sounds contemporary.

Before You Were Born is the first great album that I’ve heard out of Austin in 2012. I know there will be many more, and this is a great start. Please catch Frank Smith tonight at their LP release party at the Mohawk with Salesman and the Dalles. Doors at nine!

– Carter