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Album Review

Sage Francis, 'L(i)fe'

May 10, 2010

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“I don’t compose prose or sonnets/ I just write like my life depends upon it,’’ claims Sage Francis on this demanding fever dream of a new record. Francis, a Rhode Island native, has created an often-inspired diatribe against the hypocrisy of modern life focusing especially on religion. He collaborates with musicians who give resonance and texture to his barrage of verbiage. Some of them include Chris Walla, Tim Fite, and late Sparklehorse mastermind Mark Linkous, who offers one of the disc’s most memorable melodies on “Live the Lie.’’ “Diamonds and Pearls,’’ written with members of DeVotchKa, opens with a sweeping intro that leads into a furious rap, while “Three Sheets to the Wind,’’ written with Walla, has a punk intensity. Some consider Francis more of a spoken-word artist than a hip-hop MC, and there’s validity to that. When he falters, his cadences flatten out and completely lack rhythm, especially in the songs that are bursts of verbosity. At times, his verse is more provocative than evocative. By far the best track is “Best of Times,’’ an autobiographical piece cowritten with composer Yann Tiersen. Francis strips away the pyrotechnics and cuts to the heart. (Out tomorrow) KEN CAPOBIANCO

ESSENTIAL “Best of Times’’

Sage Francis plays at the Middle East Downstairs on Wednesday. Tickets are $18, $15 at www.ticketmaster.com.