Ever wondered what songs are on repeat so much, I get sick of them?
As of Sunday today, have a venture into my ON REPEAT playlist and let me know your thoughts on it all.
Have a great rest of your weekend, folks. I’ll see you in the new week for more album reviews, music thoughts and discussions. I’ll be starting a new job in the week as a Live Music Advisor, and so I may not be as on it with replying to comments as I usually am – so I appreciate all the support and discussions we’ve had over the past months. Take care of yourselves.
A fierce album with all the heart, What Went Down is the Oxford Quintet’s fourth studio work.
But how did they end up where they are now?
With their collection topping up to five studio albums – and their enormous project of Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost fitting across a two-parter marathon in the late Spring of 2019 – Foals have been the frequent force behind the tales and triumphs of UK indie-rockmusic.
With their jarring SPACE ROCK and TURBULENT ANTHEMS setting the pace, it made an unlikely formula to top the lot and break the charts.
With five albums to choose from as an album to venture into (at least one first anyway) I had to seek out the storm of Foals‘ 2015 year with What Went Down.
DARK and DIRTY where it needs to be with Mountain at my Gates and Snake Oil, while being aware of itself enough to hold the gears back a bit with Birch Tree and London Thunder, it is such an impressive album – equally in production and music value – and for me, the far impressive to date.
Definitive in the band’s new approach to sound, it was also definitive in value too, with many music listeners returning to the music from Oxford quintet where they would once write them off for making music “too soft.”
Foals: The Journey
A band’s journey has never been so prevalent or distinguishable than these lot.
Starting with their pragmatic math-rock Antidotes in 2008, we saw the start of a band who were very much the fast and frantic in an ever-growing music scene. Old fan faves with Cassius and Balloons first gave us an idea of what kind of band we were dealing with …
Total Life Forever: 2010
… But when Total Life Forever came out two years later, we simply had to throw that out of the window. Far more lush and swell in the making, it really allowed Foals to flourish and really confirm, “right this is us, this is our sound.”
The fast, the funky and the off-balance with Antidotes was taken down a few pegs with Total Life Forever as a more sultry, considerate approach to taking life slower was picked. Rightly so, as this was the sound they eventually settled on.
Holy Fire: 2013
Much more brighter in complexity and contrast, came Holy Fire in 2013. Rolling with more tight-lipped writing, Holy Fire trail-blazed Foals’ distinguished sound and not only surpassed a mega indie anthem with My Number, but also hacked the charts overseas in America, too.
The album saw familiar favourites with airy Out of the Woods, critical rock additions with Inhaler aswell as fitting in the slow-burners with Late Night, that was so emphatically notable with the band from the prior release in 2010.
What Went Down: 2015
Simply picking up where they left off, What Went Down was a far more passionate desire to lay their stake in the ground – we are Foals and this is what we do.
Their now immense following were only thrilled to hear that more music was in the making.
Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost: 2019 (part I / part II)
Despite somewhat of a project with B-list unreleased works, this would be the band’s most prestigious and busiest years in the industry – releasing two music albums in the space of the same year.
Envisioning creativity and new directions, their fifth and most recent saw them delve into sounds we hadn’t heard of before. An impossible feat to do at this stage, you’d think, but we were albeit pleasantly surprised with Syrups and Cafe D’Athens off the first part. If Part I was the palatable starter, then Part II is the tasty desert of dreams.
Far more angry and emphatic, Part II is a screechy sure-fire of the best of indie rock. The RunnerBlack Bull, Like Lightning. With this album, I could keep going – thump after thump.
In all my time listening to music and being a fan of all genres, call me dumb or merely narrow-minded, but I have never witnessed such a journey in not only creating such a diverse array of music but how they seem themselves as musicians and individuals in an industry that is already so overpopulated with pumped indie kicks.
Subtle eccentrics of indie rock with complacent sound-experiments, bring Alt-J into the spotlight as critically acclaimed and award-winning.
An Awesome Wave
Alt-J: a name raised from the delta symbol that is made when hitting Alt and J on a Mac keyboard, their smoothie blend of folky dub-pop became their signatory work and was first brought to attention in such singles, Matilda and Fitzpleasure in 2012.
Oddly arranged in structure and the ample choosing of percussion, we were pleasantly surprised to find out they had done a full-length debut album using those same sounds.
An Awesome Wave was released in the same year of 2012, and amassed a worthy following instantly –
Being one of the first to purchase the album via iTunes … trailing through the Earth’s atmosphere or merely jumping amongst cityscapes with your earbuds in … is how I would describe Alt-J’s music tellings.
Musically, it’s simple but it’s genuinely clever.
Doing something that hadn’t really been done anything on this scale before – certainly not from an original quartet of artists – An Awesome Wave allowed them to earn their first prestigious Mercury Prize in the world of music – not to mention three nominations from the The Brit Awards.
With a 14-piece artwork that does not require a single skip – favourites including Something Good and Dissolve Me – it has soon become a staple of this pleasurable folk-indie vibe sort of music.
Its such a rarity to explore experimental sounds, odd in structure and percussion to deliver such an album that resonated with so many people. I think the sheer simplicity of it and the ever-so-present relaxing setting you get in there music has been there from day one. Wherever the band manages to end up on their next work, their art of morbid curiosity is a sight to behold.
This is All Yours
Despite the temperament changing in the Alt-J camp after the bassist of Gwil Sainsbury’s departing in 2013, they remained true to their colours and followed up with their second, This is All Yours, in 2014.
Rhythm and space were their desired bread and butter – and that certainly didn’t change or deter at all with this follow-up.
Whilst This is AllYours did not share the same involvement concerning numbers or critical acclaim compared to that of the first, it just so happened to feature elements of extended beauty in songs that stretched for more minutes, which left the band to experiment more, without the worry of having to hold back to suit the status quo with the dreaded second album. It hinted at moments from their debut, with playful Left Hand Free and Every Other Freckle …
… but also hinted at a changing landscape for the band, a maturity to their music, almost. Elluring two-parter, Arrival in Nara and Nara, which draws up a playing time of 9 minutes, allowed the band to create conceptual moments that translated well in a far deeper song structure. Overall, This is All Yours had an 8-minute longer playing time than An Awesome Wave, but you could say had a deeper meaning behind it.
In early 2017, they soon departed ways with their vibrant colours and approached their third studio album with a somewhat darker presence, with the release of the trio 3WW, In Cold Blood and Adeline in 2017. Same year, in June? Enter, Relaxer.
Although short in a track listing of just eight, it certainly makes up for its playtime of 38 minutes. Although not doing as successful as the prior two, Relaxer is a diluted version of their sounds – but nonetheless equally ambitious. House of the Rising Sun and Deadcrush are beautiful moments that I will always wish were longer, despite them being long enough as they are.
It may also feature future sounds that we may expect to hear from their potential fourth studio album? Last Year and Pleader delves into far more traditional sounds of other orchestral instruments – including the uproar of a choir during the lasting moments in Pleaser – and even has a female vocalist adding elements into the fold that we hadn’t really heard of before.
Whatever they have in store for us in the coming year or so, I’m sure it’s set to be a delight for all of us.
Equally delightful in sound and presentation, Alt-J are a folk-inflected, indie-smooth topping that is perfect for any casual music listener.
Striking the distance between the strange and the curious, Collections from the Whiteout draws everlasting collaborations – but holds its own with Howard still prevalent as the inventive singer-songwriter.
If I told you that Aaron Dessner of The National had a major hand in producing and spinning his thoughts into Howard’s fourth successive album, you’d instantly understand it’s thought-process. A simply inventive piece of studio production, it merely avoids the dooming darkness that we saw on predecessors Noonday Dream and I Forget Where We Were, and brings a new intriguing oddity to his writing work.
Despite lacking its consistent catchy flings that we saw in amicable favourites Keep Your Head Up and Only Love, from his loveable debut, Every Kingdom back in 2011 – the elusive narratives, rustic thrills and heart-ache guitar pangs from Dessner make it an album worth writing about.
As he careens from his original path of the folk/vocal combo and instead diving into a distortion of electronics, it just tells us more about what kind of singer-songwriter Ben Howard is. Compelling, inventive and simply unafraid to embrace change.
With single stand-outs few and far between – as it’s best as a collective – Sorry Kid, Crowhurst’s Meme and Finders Keepers are some of my favourites from the 14-track album. With themes less thought-provoking but rather taken straight from snapshots of news articles, the album is rife with collaborations and inspiration from seven co-collaborators who all have a hand-in making Howard’s next masterpiece.
While it may veer away from Howard’s original sound and sometimes veer off too much, it still manages to keep itself grounded allowing Ben to still flourish in moments of bitter-sweet beauty. While it’s a saddening moment to not hear Howard again flex his own acoustic compassion and folky vibes from Every Kingdom, just the musical journey alone he is undertaking is good enough for me.