By Rebecca J. Shafer
Indie rock band Foals makes good use of building and layering in its third studio album.
Five-piece British indie rock band Foals released their third studio album, Holy Fire, Monday Feb. 11. The 11-track record was released through London-based independent record company Transgressive Records.
Foals released the album as a follow-up to 2010’s Total Life Forever, the sound of which the band has described as “like the dream of an eagle dying”whatever that means. But a listen to Holy Fire helps to reveal what the group meant by that description — the album has a sound similar to that of the last, although Foals is definitely showing progression.
Foals start off the record with a four-minute instrumental “Prelude.” The next track, “Inhaler,” is the first single off Holy Fire and it’s not hard to see why. The track has an infectious beat that induces toe tapping. The track is drum-heavy and aggressive, with the sound matching lead singer Yannis Philippakis’s vocals perfectly.
The third track is titled “My Number,” and it’s the second single off the album. The band carries through the upbeat tempo and aggressive lyrics here. Philippakis sings about fighting against the norm: “You don’t have my number/ I don’t need your love now/ I don’t need the city streets/ The creed or the culture now.” This and the previous track set up a rebellious attitude that is carried throughout the record.
“Bad Habit” and “Everytime,” the next two songs on the album, compliment each other well. “Bad Habit” closes the song with a practical whisper by Philippakis — “and I feel quite okay.” On “Everytime,” on the other hand, Foals build up the sound using instrumentals until the very end.
The band changes the pace for “Late Night,” the album’s sixth track. The emotion in Philippakis’s voice is clear when he pleads to the listener on lines like “stay with me.” The slower pace quickens up as the end of the song gets nearer and we hear a minute and a half of pure guitar riffs, which might be a little excessive.
“All my friends are in the clouds/ Alone now, in my head now/ All alone now, in my head.” These lyrics on the next track, titled “Out of the Woods,” support the dreamlike sound. The lyrics are a little deeper here, providing another good sense of emotion. The psychedelic sound continues with “Milk and Black Spiders,” which is almost reminiscent of a Postal Service song. Although the lyrics are rather repetitive, Foals again masters the build on this track – it keeps the 5-minute long song from boring the listener.
“Providence,” No. 9 on Holy Fire’s track list, is another toe-tapper. The music transitions and progresses throughout the piece, with the lyrics “I’m an animal, just like you” repeating throughout. It’s kind of like a Muse song with more echoes.
The final two tracks showcase Foals’ ability to master the ballad. “Stepson” has themes of falling and coming down. The sound produced by including the London Contemporary Orchestra on the track makes that theme more noteworthy here, “Stepson” being one of six songs contributed to by the Orchestra. “Moon” closes the album nicely: “It is coming now, my friend/ And it’s the end,” Philippakis sings.
As a whole, Holy Fire is an honest album and shows solid evolution from 2010’s Total Life Forever. Foals did some more experimenting with psychedelic effects and orchestral sounds, and it works. Although almost all the songs are between 4 and 5 minutes long, the album moves forward nicely. That progression is something that Foals seems to have mastered, and it’s an aspect of their music that sets the band apart.