TIMOTHY MONGER / allmusic.com
On their second outing as Fran, Chicago-based singer/songwriter Maria Jacobson and her small cadre of collaborators create intimate indie pop that is smart, poignant, and deeply reflective. Much has changed in the three years since their debut, 2019's A Private Picture. That album introduced Jacobson's literate, confessional style, which, when sung in her beguilingly plainspoken vocal style, resembles a younger, more D.I.Y. Aimee Mann. Like many people, the lockdowns and global tumult of the COVID-19 pandemic pushed her into a place of philosophical exploration and self-examination. Already a vivid lyricist, Jacobson's new material is layered with tiny details as she moves between scenes both big and small.
Recorded in Chicago and co-produced with Brian Sulpizio, Leaving sounds focused and deliberate with plenty of open space for Jacobson to expand on concepts of grief, anxiety, faith, and relationships. Opener "Limousine" is a gorgeous slow burn with a deceptively simple repeated melody that fades into an ornate boil of strings and fuzz guitars. "Palm Trees" is another quietly smoldering cut that, over an easy waltz, narrates an end-times scenario from the smudged window of a bunker. There are the complimentary sister songs "How Did We" and "How Did I," one examining a breakup, the other a lonesome introspection set to solo acoustic guitar. Leaving's otherwise midtempo feel ramps up a bit on the peppier "Everybody" and "Winter," though its confessional intimacy remains throughout the album's 11 songs. Jacobson is a wonderful writer who has only improved since Fran's debut, and this thoughtfully arranged set is the perfect complement to her comforting, melancholic style.