Philly Band The Districts Delivers its Best Record Yet

Popular Manipulations hits all the right buttons.

The Districts play Union Transfer on Friday. (Caitlin McCann)

The prevailing mood on the new record by Philly band The Districts is urgency. The band has always made music with artful rock vision, but the songs on the Popular Manipulations move with extra confidence and purpose. They need to be heard. This music is cathartic and invigorating, always building to bigger sounds.

Several tracks start out merely moody, almost quiet, but that’s usually a ruse, a ramp-up. When those drums start thumping, it’s a sure bet things are about to explode. “Salt” is like that. Same with “Violet” and “Will You Please Be Quiet Please?” which brings the album to a soaring, crashing conclusion. The Districts are always finding interesting ways to get lush and wild.

As we’ve come to expect, frontman Rob Grote belts out his strange lyrics with desperation. He sounds like a madman preacher shouting to a congregation of sinners: “On your own I’d let you fall down / in a garden full of bees / On your own, picking through lilacs / covered in gold and kicking through the bellyache.”

What’s it mean? No idea. The video, full of milk and masks, offers no clues:

“If Before I Wake” is probably the standout on an album full of standouts. It’s got an infectious groove and a dark exuberance that brings to mind Wolf Parade and early Arcade Fire. It’s lovely, and demands top volume. It’s got a video, too:

Kind of a goofy video for a band with such serious vision, but The Districts just can’t seem to contain their joy for making music. Popular Manipulations drops Friday, August 11 on Fat Possum Records. They play Union Transfer that night, to celebrate.  (Crap. It’s sold out.)

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