‘You Know I’m Not Going Anywhere’ is a path worth following for The Districts

by Charlotte Collins

‘You Know I’m Not Going Anywhere’ is a path worth following for The Districts

The Districts

You Know I’m Not Going Anywhere

Fat Possum Records · March 13, 2020

‘You Know I’m Not Going Anywhere’ is a path worth following for The Districts

The District’s newest album, You Know I’m Not Going Anywhere, takes a dive into the ethereal. The album is a departure from the lyrical alternative rock that the Philly-based band is best known for, with hazy background tracks and blurred voice effects that give the listener a dreamy feeling. The change in tone is owed to the unique writing process that the band took for this album. After their long and exhausting Popular Manipulations tour, lead singer and songwriter Rob Grote locked himself in his bedroom to write without expectations or restraints. Grote has released a solo-album under the alias Goat Mumbles, and You Know I’m Not Going Anywhere is a mix between the shadowy electronica of Goat Mumbles and the grungy alt rock of The Districts.

The combination is an interesting one. What is lost from The Districts’ original sound, such as the scream-along rock anthems and the stripped guitar melodies, is replaced by an element of the ethereal that was not there before. New instruments are included in the mix, such as trumpet and violin, that strengthen the sound and prove The District’s range. The lyrics reveal a confused and tired Grote, clinging to love through the struggles of working to make it big in the music industry.

“Hey Jo” reveals Grote’s Hollywood disillusionment through a sung letter to “Jo,” a lost friend or lover who went to Los Angeles in search of fame. Grote questions the integrity of LA’s promise of “sunshine” and celebrity, and curses his own yearning for a turn in the spotlight. The delicate guitar picking in the background is indicative of The Districts’ sound, while the blurred voice effects and hazy soundtrack in the bridge introduces new dimensions of their breadth.

“Cheap Regrets” opens with soft synth that transitions into more traditional alt rock, speaking again of the hollow satisfaction that LA-money buys. “Sidecar” is the album’s dance-along track. The most fast paced of the album, it almost brings the oomph of the band’s past bangers – save for their failure to go full cathartic release screamo-mode. Instead, the song fades into hazy synth sounds that leave the punk rock inclined listener slightly lacking.

“Velour and Velcro” is a clear highlight of the album, with lyricism that showcases The District’s poetic expertise in full glory. The song is “about the elusive nature of bliss and how even when you’ve caught it, you know it may be fleeting,” according to Grote on Instagram. In other words, it is about the joy of falling in love and the appreciation of this feeling even when you know that one day it could disappear. The instrumentals are kept simple, accompanying rather than overpowering Grote’s echoing voice.

“Descend” and “4th of July” are simple love songs. Hidden behind The District’s obvious talent in alternative rock lies an equally as powerful strength in acoustic ballads. Grote’s voice is beautiful and cutting, and the words he sings carry an equal ability to dig deep. “Descend” tells of a love both destructive and indestructible and a lover that Grote would follow into death. “So keep me awake before you kill me / Your worst mistake / We’ll call it even for now / Your hand in mine / Descend together / They say it burns but you and I have known worse.” In “4th of July”, Grote reminisces about the uncertainty of falling in love amidst a moonlit trip to the beach on the Fourth of July.

When I met The Districts in person at their show last year in Afterhours, they responded to my admission of being a superfan with a confused and surprised “Really?” (If you are wondering, the answer is yes, they have been my favorite band since the seventh grade). While You Know I’m Not Going Anywhere differs from The Districts’ past sound, in it the band again proves their poetic and instrumental talent, just this time with a taste of dreamy synthetics and wistful vibes. The District’s reach has grown considerably in the past few years, but they still have yet to reach the mainstream. And while I can’t say I don’t enjoy seeing them close up at smaller venues, wider recognition is one thing that this band does deserve. The Districts pack a lyrical punch that I have yet to hear elsewhere, and they tote an impressive range of style to go with it. In concert, they are loud and commanding and angry and fun, a show led by the musicians as much as the lead singer. In studio recordings, Grote’s voice jumps forward and the deeper meanings of the songs shine through.

You Know I’m Not Going Anywhere is a new path for The Districts, and one worth following. Who knows, maybe as the band ventures out into the dream world, fans will start to follow. And while Grote has shown his mixed feelings towards the Hollywood lifestyle, maybe the alt slash indie rock sounds of a small Philly band are worth bringing into the limelight, if only for listeners’ sake.