Great American Painting, the fifth full-length from The Districts, is the rare album that shines a bright light on all that’s wrong in the world but somehow still channels a galvanizing sense of hope. With equal parts nuanced observation and raw outpouring of feeling, the Philadelphia-based band confront a constellation of problems eroding the American ideal (gentrification, gun violence, the crushing weight of late capitalism), ornamenting every track with their explosive yet elegant breed of indie-rock/post-punk. Threading that commentary with intense self-reflection, Great American Painting ultimately fulfills a mission The Districts first embraced upon forming as teenagers in small-town Pennsylvania: an urge to create undeniably cathartic music that obliterates hopelessness and invites their audience along in dreaming up a far better future.
Produced by Joe Chiccarelli (Spoon, The Strokes, Broken Social Scene) and recorded at the legendary Sunset Sound in Los Angeles, Great American Painting was deeply informed by the two months that Districts vocalist/guitarist Rob Grote spent living in a cabin in Washington state at the height of the pandemic. “While we were there I spent some time driving near all these crazy rivers and the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, and I was mesmerized by how those unspoiled landscapes really capture a timeless idea of what America is,” says Grote. “I’d just come from taking part in the protests in Philly and getting tear-gassed, and it felt so strange to go between those two extremes. In a way this album is asking, ‘What is the great American painting? Is it police brutality, or is it this beautiful landscape?’ And the truth is it’s all of that.”
On “I Want to Feel It All”—the album’s anthemic lead single—The Districts reveal the pure impact of that approach, building a potent tension between the track’s propulsive drumming, percussive vocal delivery, and gorgeously shimmering textures. The song, at turns jittery and ecstatic, was sparked from an acid trip that took place under a volcano near Grote’s cabin. “In Washington I didn’t see much of anyone except our neighbor Paul, who’s a 74-year-old Vietnam vet,” he recalls. “After he came back from Vietnam he started protesting the war, and it was so interesting to talk with him about everything he went through. The night that we did acid, it felt like I was looking at a future version of myself and he was hanging out with a younger version of himself. That song came from really feeling the weight of my mortality, and feeling a desire to fully live life and experience the widest range of it.”
Florry is a 7-piece country rock band from Philadelphia led by Francie Medosch. They play songs about staying alive, loving, persevering, and having too good of a time, bursting at the seams sonically with a fully rounded out sound akin to the Rolling Thunder Revue.