Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Foals: Total Life Forever

     Foals are an British indie rock band formed in 2007 that incorporate dance and chill wave sensibilities with, to the trained eye, early math rock instrumentation. I had been aware of this, the groups sophomore album, for a while now, but have been putting off the review. Thanks to Patrick and Jack though, for persisting in their wanting of said dissection! Having listened to their debut record, 'Antidotes' in preparation for this post, I come to the conclusion that Foals have moved away from their much more upbeat, and perhaps more daring sounds to bring to light a much more mainstream feel that loses that edge in places. Nearly every song is wallowing in a chill atmosphere and quiet moodiness that is far from terrible. The quintet emulate a passion for what they do which is hard not to love, creating a rainy day blanket of sound that's incredibly easy to get wrapped up in.
     Unfortunately though, after the few listens required to write a review, I realised I enjoyed the debut better, even after only an hour with that record. The first is, summed up, a guitar driven pop album with catchy melodies and memorable lyrics, with the slower songs trembling with a subdued intensity that feels fantastic. Compared to this, the band have changed a great deal, losing the great lyricism, with hooks only memorable due to repetitive singing. Still, I feel as though this album is a breakthrough of sorts, just not in the direction the debut lp pointed. For me, the first is a greater pop rock album, with 'Total Life Forever' a chill wave record that appears more thoughtful in production, but in the process losing the eccentricity many had loved from before. I could imagine many slamming these eleven tracks as uninspired, with hardly any getting particularly loud.
     Despite this, I do like the album for a lot of reasons, and would definitely recommend it to everyone. The production is smooth, with some fantastic guitar effects and drums work polishing the straightforward and almost blissful and bleak soundscapes. Don't look to get excited, as this definitely steers away from that route, laid out by 'Antidotes'. Songs like 'Spanish Sahara', which is one of my favourite, emphasise my point perfectly. The track starts in a hospital ward, with it's headache inducing glare dampened by grieving tears. The beats are there, throbbing in the background, building and building to some of the loudest moments on the lp. Even then, I turned my speaker volume up in order to get that goose bump feeling from very emotional climaxes. The first time I heard that track, riding along in the car, with rain sliding down the window, I was awe-struck, which makes me think that in part, situations and environments make this album great. I'm must say, throughout this review, I've been split on whether my opinion's positive or negative. Argh!
     This album isn't without variety either. 'This Orient's vocal beats that come in throughout the song, making this one of the faster tracks. 'Fugue' is a glitchy tale of a man void of possessions, contemplating the decision to jump. Only forty-nine seconds long, I would have perhaps liked this, the shortest song, to have been extended, but it's end marks the start of 'After Glow', which gathers some of the noisiest sounds and more passionate singing on the record. Other noted flashes of brilliance are 'Blue Blood's crystal clear vocals at the start, and the song's climactic nature. 'Miami' has an outstanding melody and groovy beat to it, as well, with 'Total Life Forever's vocals noticeable deeper in parts than other tracks, which I enjoyed.
     Overall, I must say my opinion is mixed. On the one hand, I'm loving the quieter, chilled soundscapes forged by the tracks on this album, but then I miss the excitement sparked by the band's debut. For me, on many levels, the sounds on both records are completely different, so you should really check out both before making a decision on which you prefer. I reckon the first slightly clinches it, but that's really only personal opinion, and one you may very well disagree with. If you enjoy music to be listened to on a rainy day and which can be mused upon, definitely check out Foal's sophomore lp, 'Total Life Forever'.