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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    FOAL’s new album satisfies, but doesn’t wow


    English alternative rock quintet Foals did not start off its career quietly. In the mid 2000’s, the band got its start in a very rockstar-esque fashion: playing house parties.

    The band was the backbone of many English parties when they were first starting out, and from there, they began to ascend into the alternative rock sphere, primarily with its debut record in 2008, Antidotes.

    Listening to the record, it’s not hard to understand why Foals got its start playing house parties. The record is loud, bouncy and absolutely exploding with energy on almost every track. But a couple years later, as dance punk and the raging style of music Foals embodied so much fell out of the limelight, the band made many stylistic changes.

    Foals’ sophomore album in 2010, Total Life Forever, contained some remnants of its energetic style, like bouncy guitars and keyboards, but was mostly stripped back and far more relaxed.

    The band’s following album in 2013, Holy Fire, showed a bit of a return to form with more energetic songs infused with indie pop, like “My Number.” The song climbed the charts in the United Kingdom while the band also experimented with some heavier tunes, such as “Inhaler” and “Providence”.

    I enjoyed the way Foals balanced poppy and heavy tunes on this record, and for the most part, it was a joy to listen to.

    Now, two years later, Foals is already on its fourth LP, What Went Down . With the first single off of this album, the title track, Foals does not hold back, and they clearly state that they want to continue producing heavier tracks.

    The track includes heavy guitar leads and drums that sound very 70’s inspired, but frontman Yannis Philippakis’ trademark screeching voice towers over the instrumentals, which I really enjoy. His blaring voice is a refreshing twist when many alternative rock bands are taking a more relaxed approach.

    Then the album immediately takes a dive into much softer territory with the songs “Birch Tree”, “Give it All” and “Albatross”. “Birch Tree” would have fit in on Foals’ last record, with it being quieter and radio ready, yet still somewhat danceable.

    “Give it All” is a very quiet, poignant track. Philippakis sounds far more relaxed here with great deal of emotion in his voice. The instrumentals aren’t too prevalent either, with a simple hi-hat beat and keyboards backing the song. It is always refreshing to hear Philippakis put his abrasive vocals away for a short time, and listen to his more delicate side.

    The song provides a nice pit stop in the track listing, before the album begins to ascend back into heaviness.

    On “Albatross”, every instrument sounds louder and more up front, building up nicely to the next heavy track on this album, “Snake Oil”. This song is incredibly similar to the title track as it includes screeching vocals, hard-hitting drums and very similar guitar leads. While it’s pleasant to see Foals taking this approach and experimenting with this formula, it does get repetitive, as the instrumentals sound almost identical to the first song on the album.

    I get the sense that when they try to push this heavy sound, they may be trying to a bit too hard, or not expanding the bands’ horizons enough when it comes to this style of music. However, as for the louder sound Foals was going for on this record, it pretty much concludes near the end of the record.

    The final three songs, “London Thunder”, “Lonely Hunter” and “A Knife in the Ocean”, again adopt Foals’ less aggressive, radio friendly sound, but are still very enjoyable.

    On “London Thunder”, Philippakis sounds more quiet and emotional than he has throughout the entire record. “Lonely Hunter” is a very uplifting song that includes some excellent guitar composition, and the LP concludes nicely with “A Knife in the Ocean”, on which Foals does a fine job balancing loud, grandiose instrumentals along with an impressive vocal performance.

    The changes Foals made throughout its discography have not always been easy for listeners to go along with, but they always make it work. For this new album, I think Foals finally stays the course and tries to expand on its current sound, instead of constantly changing, and this is something I can really appreciate.

    Foals definitely comes close to mastering its trademark sound — sporadic, sometimes abrasive, poppy, yet still radio friendly. Aside from some repetition on the two heavier tracks, I think there is a lot of vocal and instrumental diversity on this record, and it was a pleasure to listen to.

    Rating: B+

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