It isn’t easy to get five people to come to a consensus on anything — even if you lock them in a conference room with lunch. But that was exactly the task set before our panel when we met to choose our favorite Tiny Desk Contest entry from Massachusetts.
To refresh your memory: Every year, NPR Music puts out a national call to unsigned musicians to submit a video of an original song to the Tiny Desk Contest. The winner gets to perform in NPR’s popular Tiny Desk Concert series. This year, the title went to Alaska-based musician Quinn Christopherson. But there were thousands of entries — 254 of them from Massachusetts. So we decided to convene our own panel to choose our favorite Massachusetts submission.
I’m delighted to announce that the honor goes to Frances Forever, for her band’s disarming performance of her song “Space Girl.”
Our panelists — musicians Akrobatik and Mark Erelli, Allston Pudding editor-in-chief Christine Varriale, myself and ARTery arts engagement producer Arielle Gray — all came to the meeting with a different group of favorites. But as we made our way through the entries, Frances Forever’s video quickly stood out. In the end, it was an easy decision to make. Our panelists agreed that “Space Girl” had all the ingredients to a great song: an indelible melody, an original conceit, lyrics that hang together. “Space Girl” is an ode to infatuation. It begins, “Space Girl, show me the stars/ You know the galaxies of my heart.” But beneath the song’s playful metaphor lies a melancholy core: “Girl, are you a Cancer/ Cause you make me cry/ When we kiss/ Or dance in the sky.” It’s funny, but also somehow sad. The singers' harmonies are skillful, the band’s performance sweetly restrained.
Frances Forever is the musical project of Frances Garrett, a 20-year-old student at Clark University whose family lives in Melrose. She has been performing as Frances Forever — a play on her first name and the song “Francis Forever” by Mitski — for less than a year. Her songs are reminiscent of the smart bedroom pop of peers like Sidney Gish and Clairo, cheerful-sounding ditties that belie more complicated emotions: sadness, longing, resentment. She has self-released an EP, called “Pockets,” and two singles. Her songs have performed impressively on Spotify — one has over 15,000 streams — thanks largely to her music surfacing on the platform’s algorithmically-generated playlists. And, she told me, she has a bit of a fanbase at school.
Frances Forever will perform at WBUR's CitySpace on Friday, Aug. 23 with one of our other favorite submissions, All The Time Always. Get your tickets here.