Frank Smith: “Beaten Sacks Of Death”

Some bands are like sharks–they have to keep moving forward in order to survive. Frank Smith might be the perfect local example. The outfit moved from Boston to Austin in 2007, and since then they’ve switched band members and styles at a quick clip. Albums have come even quicker–in their Austin era, Frank Smith have released four (with number five on the way), and back in Boston the band had another four albums to its name. The one constant in this whirlwind of activity? Aaron Sinclair.

Even back in Boston, Sinclair showed an affinity for country music. Early Frank Smith recordings are sparse, folk-inflected affairs. Yet the singer built up his sound record by record, adding new members and instruments wherever he saw fit. The country influence only grew stronger after he moved to Austin, but so did the spikier elements. Frank Smith songs have always been shrouded in shadows, and coinciding with the sigh of the pedal steel are distorted guitars and crashing drums. Last year’s Before You Were Born brought all of these sounds  into a perfect balance, with songs switching between punchy rockers and drawn-out, meandering epics.

But that shark has to keep moving. On April 2, Frank Smith will release Nineties, an album that marks another turn in the band’s fascinatingly diverse career. It’s the first record that Sinclair has not played acoustic guitar on, and given his predilection towards twang, that’s a pretty big deal. Nineties is a sharper, rougher record; the country influence is buried beneath some impressive pop hooks. It’s still a delight to hear, though, since the band sounds refreshed and dynamic. “Beaten Sacks Of Death” is the oddly-titled first single from the record, and it finds Frank Smith coiled like a tightly-wound spring, ready to explode at any moment. Sinclair narrates a particularly jagged late-night bender, and even though he sings with a weary warble, he’s never sounded so alive.

You can catch Frank Smith at SXSW 2013:

Sat, 3/9: Holy Mountain (Convoy Con Queso party), 3pm
Mon, 3/11: The Mohawk (Barbarian Group & Vimeo party), 10:30pm
Tue, 3/12: Bar 96 (Frog Music Licensing party), 11pm
Thu, 3/14: Creekside at Hilton Garden Inn (Official SXSW Showcase), 1am
Sat, 3/16: The New Movement (Pop Press International & No Play Music party), 1pm

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