26 Aug 2015

Foals : a retrospective ahead of their new album

With only a few days to go until Foals release their fourth album I thought I would take a chance to look back over the bands previous albums and, with the help of the internet and an online survey, find out what truly makes them one of the greatest bands of our current generation. Whether you found out about this band from your best mate, family, as a suggestion on Spotify or youtube, or even on an aeroplane not many people can deny that they haven't heard any of this bands music at one time or another.

Released back in March 2008 Antidotes is the album that caused critics to label Foals as an indie pop / math rock band. With their quirky, repeatable lyrics and a unique sound you can see how they attracted such a huge fanbase and hit the number 3 spot in the UK album chart. Ironically, Hummer, the song that produced the first buzz for the band after it was featured on Skins is not on the main album and only available as a bonus track, when asked about this in past Yannis has said "There are too many albums today where you release 5 singles before the album even comes out”. The band mixed the album themselves, recording in unorthodox ways such as vocals being sung and recorded whilst moving around the room to drums recorded in the alleyways of Brooklyn in the middle of the night on cassette tape recorders before being reprocessed.

The whole of Antidotes is easy flowing and jam-packed with sounds weather it be guitars, keyboards, percussion, brass instruments, white noise or Yannis and the rest of the band’s easy to chant vocals. Foals wanted to ‘use the studio as an instrument’ and create an album in which you can immerse yourself. From the albums upbeat attitude it is clear that these are some of songs Foals probably tested out on their friends whilst playing at house parties in Oxford (here / here). Years later this album still has importance in the bands live performances; songs such as Two Steps Twice and Red Sock Pugie are still fan favourites at gigs and festival sets.  On some levels this album reminds me of early stuff by the likes of The Wombats in terms of their youngness, and the fact that it wouldn't really be an indie club night without them - even Yannis’ voice sounds completely different to their later songs, as it's got considerably.

For me, like many others, it was around the release of Antidotes when I first heard about Foals, after seeing the very funny and confusing video for Cassius (if you haven't seen it its the one where Yannis does some weird dancing and there is a lot of floating real life hearts). However in later years the song from this album that sticks out for me is Two Steps Twice for the way it builds up throughout the track and you are just waiting for the moment when it all goes off.

In May 2010 the band took a leap and returned with a new and different sounding album. Where most bands start out alternative and become more mainstream, Foals took the opposing route. Gone was the repetitive indie disco tracks with brass and horn instruments, and in its place a dreamy and slow record. A tamer version of their first album with longer songs and more meaning, whimsical lyrics, yet still with a hint of math rock and those Foals-y sounding guitars as seen on upbeat songs like Miami and the sharp drums and funky tune of His Orient. The album gives the band a more mature and ambitious sound, seen in the change of how Yannis uses his voice who has mentioned in the past that he never ractually wanted to be on vocals in the band.

Described by Yannis as "tropical prog" and "like the dream of an eagle dying”, Total Life Forever may not be everyone's cup of tea but it does include one of the band’s most loved and most raved about song, Spanish Sahara. A song where Foals completely upped their game and yet sound nothing like band that produced indie disco banger Cassius. Spanish Sahara heightens whatever emotions you are feeling and can help you get lost in the music.

Most songs are ever changing and has an array of intensities as it builds up and gathers pace (prime examples are Spanish Sahara, After Glow and Blue Blood). TLF is indeed a headphones album in which you can shut out the world and get fully engrossed in the music. Ending the album are relaxing songs 2 Trees and What Remains which only confirms that Foals are forever evolving and will never produce a similar sounding album twice.

Nearly 5 years after their debut record, Holy Fire was let out onto the world in February 2013; a truly indie rock record with harder sounding guitars and a more complex sound showing that the band has grown up massively since Antidotes. For most people this is their favourite Foals album and on many levels I think that could be true. With a mixture of fast upbeat tracks and slower ones which make you think, this album is a sharp balance between Antidotes and Total Life Forever. Dance-y and funky My Number is a throwback to Antidotes but with less cryptic lyrics (“You don’t have my number, we don’t need each other now” is really about Yannis changing his phone number after a break up) whilst Everytime to me feels like it could have been on Total Life Forever.

Prelude starts slow and builds in a way every album opener should and is followed by the biblically big Inhaler with its mesmerising guitars, heavy drum beat and Yannis’ screaming lyrics. An album with honester and clearer lyrics, the bands producers Flood and Moulder would trick them by recording their rehearsal takes for it gave the record a more “uninhibited sound”. Yet it is a track like Milk and Black Spiders which stood out for me with its dreamy sound and emotive lyrics “because I've been around 2 times to find that you're the only friend i need” that stand out for me.

If anyone could predict what Foals new album without hearing it I think Holy Fire is the closest thing to their newer sound; the band have stepped out of the category they were first put in and remind me of Bombay Bicycle Club in the sense that every album seems to overtake the next, getting more sophisticated.

Whilst some people are hesitant about the new album thinking it may not top Holy Fire due to a change in creative direction; after hearing tracks such as What Went Down and Mountain At My Gates I think Foals have the ability to make this their best album yet. However we’ll all just have to wait and see.

foals' new album is out this friday - stay tuned for our review

(written by Jess Fleming)