Happy Monday, friends! Today’s post comes to you from one of my amazing interns, Sebastien L’Arrivée. He will be helping with the new album portion of the website along with writing reviews of albums we both think deserve some praise and critical discussion. Hope you enjoy!
It’s hard to tell what to expect from U.K. based indie rockers Foals. With Holy Fire, their third studio album, they’ve expanded and matured their sound by, oddly enough, simplifying it. A perfect example of this is the pop rock song “My Number,” which lacks the pretense usually found in frontman Yannis Philippakis’ lyrics – it is simply about changing his number after a breakup. It’s a funky number that makes you want to groove, but is nonetheless characterized by Foals’ signature atmospheric ambient production.
The two singles from Holy Fire – “My Number” and “Inhaler” – create a precedent for the rest of the album, as both songs deviate from Foals’ usual sound; “My Number” in the manner as described above, and “Inhaler” in its steady build up into a chorus of heavy guitars and classic rock themes. These relatively simple sounds are blended throughout the album with elements of sonic complexity one would expect from a band that draws influence from math rock. As such, they’ve created something that’s both interesting and complex – but still very accessible. Above all, however, this album is extremely fun to listen to.
Critical listening, though, elicits some fundamental flaws with the album. There was a level of experimentation that seemed to have been hinted at, but was never fully realized. “Stepson” and “Bad Habit,” for example, both feature intros that can only be described as being ‘experimental,’ featuring dissonant synthesizer layers or unusual percussion. These moments of variety, however, are often quickly blended in and covered up by the jangly guitars and ambient vocals that are so prominent throughout.
Fortunately, reprieve comes in the form of such songs as “Late Night,” for its funky bass line that emerges unexpectedly from an uncharacteristically slow intro, and “Providence,” for its strange repeating vocal line, backed by heavy riffs and a hard hitting drum line that would feel at home on any hard rock album. These momentary lapses from the uniformity of Holy Fire come right when needed to keep the listener engaged, and to keep them from dozing off to the relaxing ambiance of the album.
It is upon multiple listens that Holy Fire shines. What seemed at first to be monotony in the production evolves into a signature sound that is blended seamlessly with influences from a number of other genres and bands, to create something that is uniquely their own. It is refreshing to see a band introduce pop elements into their music so well. Many bands have done the same recently, releasing sub-par products as a result. Fortunately, Foals have come out above the trend with Holy Fire, and have released an album that is neither too complex, nor overly simplistic.