WU LYF was a lot of things, but “beautiful” and “easy-listening” weren’t the descriptors you’d typically see alongside the mysterious Manchester band’s name. Brash and anthemic, gritty and just plain bizarre, WU LYF released one of the best and now-underrated albums of the decade back in 2011, Go Tell Fire to the Mountain, a genre-less dance party that hit at the strike of midnight for the indie rock generation.
It was an unsustainable band, a quartet that relied as much on its enigmatic online persona as its shout-filled music. Just over a year after their debut, lead singer Ellery James Roberts announced the band was no more: “WU LYF is dead to me” were his exact words.
The band’s four members were too talented to stop making music in their early 20s. Roberts went on to found LUH (“Lost Under Heaven”), while guitarist Evans Kati and drummer Joe Manning started Dream Lovers. The former took WU LYF’s sound in a louder and more brash direction while Kati and Manning, who have yet to release an LP, largely answered, “What would WU LYF sound like without Ellery’s screamed vocals?”
But it was the Mancunian act’s fourth member, bassist Tom McClung, who released the most complete-sounding post-WU LYF record of the bunch—it just took him until 2019 to finally put out his debut full length, A Dream Is U (though he did release two EPs in 2015 and 2016, respectively: Vol I and Vol II), under the pseudonym Francis Lung. It sounds next to nothing like his previous band, leaning much more towards the sun-drenched indie pop of Real Estate or Girls than “We Bros” or “Heavy Pop.”
And it’s evident just how distant the two acts are within the initial seconds of album opener “I Wanna Live in My Dreams.” Beginning with a spritely piano line and a guitar riff that wouldn’t be out of place on Vampire Weekend’s Father of the Bride, it quickly evolves into a gorgeous Beatles-esque pop song complete with strings and McClung’s clean vocals that recall those of Real Estate’s Martin Courtney.
That’s the vibe that follows throughout A Dream Is U, a record that sounds like Real Estate or Beach Fossils covering “Here Comes Your Man.” It’s not reinventing the wheel by any means, but it feels like a refreshing throwback to the lighter contemporaries that WU LYF were seemingly rebelling against in the early part of this decade. Harmonies and bouncy surf-rock riffs abound. A Dream Is U succeeds in providing yet another pretty entry to this genre, one that’s felt relatively dormant since its mid-2010s heyday.
A Dream Is U’s highlights come when McClung alters that formula on songs like “Comedown” or “Invisible,” both string and piano-heavy compositions that reach more for Bryter Layter-era Nick Drake than summery indie rock. The two songs showcase McClung’s songwriting ability, proving he’s more than a Beach Fossils or Real Estate look alike—but the album’s other eight songs tend to make him seem exactly that.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing: Francis Lung’s debut is catchy as hell, the kind of sunny indie rock that could easily soundtrack a backyard BBQ or road trip. It doesn’t do much to distinguish itself from the bevy of other bands that will inevitably come up next on Spotify following the record’s final song, but it’s still a pretty collection, one that makes for a worthwhile listen. Just don’t be surprised if someone at that party asks if “2 Real” or “Do Ya” are new Real Estate singles.