the first single from owen’s upcoming album, the king of whys, is certifiably bucolic. “lost” is firmly grounded in mike kinsella’s voice and the subtle, rhythmic strums of his acoustic guitar, with lilting pedal steel phrases peppered in for supplemental texture. it’s a logical outcome when kinsella’s minimal confessionals get paired with arrangements played by a lauded collective of eau claire session musicians; quite frankly, an entire album’s worth of material like this would be more than welcomed.
“settled down” isn’t exactly the antithesis of its predecessor, but it is maximal in comparison. a polyrhythmic drum beat, reminiscent of kinsella’s work behind the kit in their/they’re/there, anchors the track, with steadily-arpeggiated chords weaving through a fuzzed-out foundation to create a series of sweeping passages. the sparse interludes that do occur feel that much more impactful as a result; indeed, the coda is a particularly arrest respite from the dissonance that threatens to bleed through prior to its arrival. a listless song with natural disaster as a central metaphor shouldn’t be this beautiful.
the king of whys arrives july 29th via polyvinyl records. listen to “settled down” below.
it didn’t take long for foxing to stand apart from their peers. the st. louis quintet’s debut album the albatross meted out blasts of post-hardcore agitation that were occasionally quelled by beautiful instrumental passages, and these arrangements progressed with such fluidity that it was hard not to admire this young band’s intimate capacity to tug at heartstrings on a multitude of levels.
a reissue of the album last year by triple crown records helped propel foxing to even more widespread acclaim; they spent the twilight of 2014 touring with brand new and modern baseball before beginning to flesh out ideas for their sophomore effort. further writing sessions in rural vermont earlier this year yielded the songs that would eventually populate dealer, an incredible, deeply personal follow-up that steadfastly holds court in the bowels of self-reflection.
while the albatross was firmly rooted in release, dealer finds solace in tension – and retention. the religious imagery that defines lead single “the magdalene” is vivid in description and stark in consequence, its biblical undertones permeating in quick succession through the final third of the album. this appropriately culminates with finale “three on a match,” a poignant nod to an old wartime superstition compounded by a heartbreaking rejection of repentance.
vocalist conor murphy and bassist josh coll share songwriting duties, and this fruitful partnership has pushed foxing into a new lyrical category on dealer. the poetry is dense and less direct, but it notably doesn’t force itself into the spotlight; murphy’s falsetto (more confident and technically capable than on the albatross) smears certain words into a song’s canvas (see especially: “eiffel”) while enunciating others for maximum effect, and he’ll often leave the conversation altogether to give his bandmates ample time to musically react to the emotions he’s explored.
the centerpiece – and masterpiece – of dealer is “indica,” an intensely somber account penned by coll riddled with regret and remorse. its lyrics leave behind much of the duo’s detailed imagery in favor of a bleak reality. the central couplet “and if so, do i haunt their parents’ dreams? / and in so, am i summarized by sounds of young lung screams” weighs heavily on the album and helps advance the elegy for tragic civilian casualties in afghanistan, but “indica” is also a elegy for a part of coll himself, who concedes that his post-traumatic stress may be the only consolation for the parents of dead children as a sparse funeral march plays in the background.
the noticeably darker subject matter is underscored by vast, often desolate soundscapes. the members of foxing haven’t deviated far from their standard palette: guitar, bass, and drums are still augmented by murphy’s trumpet and piano contributions, and fleshed-out orchestral arrangements play a significant role in the overall tone of dealer, but many timbral roles have shifted. guitarists ricky sampson and eric hudson largely leave harmony behind to explore the stratosphere, relegating chordal support to piano and strings or preferring to outline the progressions via arpeggio. the duo also spend more time crafting atmospheric pads that prop up secondary melodic instruments, such as the trumpet-saxophone duet on “laundered” and the eerie reed organ tones that course through “indica” and “redwoods.”
this rearrangement of sonic architecture allows foxing to convincingly clear the ceiling of lyrically-driven music and venture far into the realm of extended instrumentals. both “winding cloth” and “coda” function not as mere interludes but as direct, fully-developed reactions to their antecedents. the former molds a fleeting piano motif at the end of “indica” into a sprawling cinematic endeavor that’s every bit as devastating as its predecessor’s poetry, while the latter’s barren landscape quickly dampens the catharsis of “eiffel,” returning dealer to a more downtrodden tone for its true finale.
dealer resonates deeply. a magnum opus of this caliber, with no discernible weak points, is rarely achieved by a band, let alone this early in their career. foxing’s bluntly finite, unofficial motto means they could hang it up at any moment; it would be a shame if dealer winds up being their swan song, but goddamn, what a legacy they’ll leave behind.
those that have been reading dimestore saints since this site’s earliest days may remember that we were quite enamored with ann arbor quartet pity sex throughout most of 2013. their debut full-length feast of love coincided with what felt like the apex of the so-called emo revival, though the band’s penchant for gloomy shoegaze taken at punk tempos set them apart from their peers. pity sex recently wrapped up work on their sophomore effort, white hot moon; it’s due out this coming spring via run for cover records, and today the band shared its lead single. “what might soothe you?” finds co-vocalists brennan greaves and britty drake furthering the gloomy, hopelessly romantic dialogue drummer and lyricist sean st. charles crafted across feast of love while the underneath accompaniment veers towards the extremes, with clean passages suddenly juxtaposed by fuzzed-out guitar smears. take a listen to “what might soothe you?” below.
chvrches have always made it a point to exceed expectations. their strong early offerings landed them both consistent critical acclaim and a record deal with a major label subsidiary, and the glaswegian trio embarked on an ostensibly exhausting world tour following the rave reviews of the bones of what you believe.
lauren mayberry sang pristine hooks over equally-pristine synth arrangements, songs swelled to pre-chorus heights before exploding into the mind-boggling refrain itself, and despite this meticulous attention to detail and production, most of bones retained a raw, emotive component not readily available on the surface of most synth-pop albums. chvrches spent six months writing and recording every open eye earlier this year, an ambitious follow-up that chases the highs of its predecessor.
it’s a sensible practice to emulate a previous success, but chvrches toe the surprisingly fine line between emulation and replication. “never ending circles” opens forcefully and soon crests to a chorus as titanic as the trio has ever penned, though the track reads as a slight misdirection. the strength of “leave a trace” tides the album over for a bit longer, but every open eye eventually wavers dangerously close to mediocrity, a territory previously foreign to chvrches.
nevermind that “make them gold” has a title that seems to exclusively pander to this generation’s optimistic hashtag users; the song’s delivery is flawed, its vocal pacing sophomoric, and the refrain’s melodic contour – arguably the most crucial component of a chvrches song – is painful, a glaring misstep that somehow survived the cutting-room floor. “make them gold” joins “empty threat” as the chief byproducts of a recording period that was a bit rushed and ultimately suffered from bouts of tunnel vision. the anthems that dotted bones were almost accidental in magnitude, and chvrches certainly don’t bat a thousand when trying to capitalize on their arena-caliber potential this time around.
it’s a shame that those blemishes are placed at very strategically poor points on the album, because every open eye does host some of chvrches’ finest work to date. “clearest blue” is the sprawling centerpiece that bones decidedly lacked, and martin doherty’s lead vocal on “high enough to carry you over” makes it one of the album’s most compelling components. the final third of every open eye is more indicative of the pop anthems chvrches are now capable of constructing, and both “playing dead” and “bury it” tweak the trio’s tried and true songwriting blueprint to refreshing results.
by the time “afterglow” hits, chvrches have completed another victory lap, albeit one less smooth than previously experienced. every open eye avoids the sophomore slump and provides chvrches with sufficient material for an even more massive tour, but it also suggests that the band should tread lightly and spend considerably more time on their subsequent output. luck won’t always be on their side.
the success of foxing’s 2013 debut effort the albatross spilled over well into the following year. the st. louis outfit’s blend of cinematic post-rock and eclectic post-hardcore resonated with a surging fan base and earned them a record deal with triple crown, who reissued the albatross and will release the band’s sophomore album, dealer, out october 30th.
on “the magdalene,” the first single pulled from dealer, foxing collectively internalizes the aggression that permeated their earlier work and presents a vulnerable confessional about the psychological trauma of sexual guilt stemming from a religious upbringing. dual guitar lines weave delicately through conor murphy’s vocal narrative, with layers of decayed delay washing over the song’s texture before coalescing into a beautiful, heart-wrenching coda powered by a surging rhythm section.
add dealer to our list of highly anticipated albums for the fall. take a listen to “the magdalene” below.
pity sex stuck out in the crowd of emo-inspired bands that garnered extra attention last year, often putting shoegaze and noise-rock elements on a higher pedestal than their mid-1990s downtrodden idols. the ann arbor quarter released a split with adventures today via run for cover records; each band contributed a cover along with a new original song, and pity sex offered up “acid reflex,” a noisy, mid-tempo number in the vein of last year’s feast of love. the track premiered over at wondering sound yesterday, but now you can stream it right here as well. take a listen.