The echoes of the mid-2000’s indie rock are boomeranging back in the full force and Philadelphia-based quartet, The Districts, aren’t shy about purveying it. On their third full-length album, Popular Manipulations, these earnest Pennsylvanians tunnel deep into emotionally fraught songwriting with eclectic influences from artists who are familiar to anyone who has been listening to music for the last 15 years.
The Strokes, Interpol, Liars, and other assorted 2000’s bands make their influence felt across Popular Manipulations, and John Congleton’s (St. Vincent, Kurt Vile) production is key in making the sound as expansive, yet also as accessible as possible. Opening song “If Before I Wake” has a delectable monotonous build that sets the anticipatory vibe for the rest of the album.
“Ordinary Day” is a slow-motion upper hook that sways and crashes with an attractive volatility, while “Violet” rattles with earnest and shaky prose to a dark nadir of self-reflection. The album peaks with “Point” which opens with shimmering guitars and a sugary melody that is heightened by Rob Grote’s versatile vocals.
“Fat Kiddo” sports music stylings that are as pensive as they are catchy, while “Rattling of the Heart” offers another staccato bass line with fervent urgency built around it. “Will You Please Be Quiet Now” finishes the album with a not-so-epic build up that falls flat, but doesn’t detract from the album as a whole.
Despite some obvious blunders and misses, Popular Manipulations is an enjoyable album that has commendable songwriting that hints towards this band’s longevity. Many of these songs could fit seamlessly into a playlist of music made a decade ago, but that’s not a bad thing.