Right from the moment opening track ‘Grand Paradise’ slams into you at full speed, it’s clear that Foxing are offering up something new and vibrant with album number three.
Adding M83/Radiohead-like touches to their already familiar post-rock sound, Nearer My God contains a plethora of material to dig deep into. Co-produced with former Death Cab for Cutie guitarist, Chris Walla, the album seems more focused on synth and drum pads than crashing cymbals and heavy riffs – but the result is an infectious yet familiar album, with all the grace and anger you would expect from the Missouri four-piece.
However, it’s useful to note that it’s been quite an eventful couple of years for the band; losing a founding member to NYU’s Tisch School of Arts, being hit by a runaway vehicle while on tour, having $30,000 worth of equipment and merchandise stolen, and perhaps most alarming of all; Conor Murphy started a solo band. And yet here we sit, listening to a record which, all things considered, may not have happened at all. Any one of these incidents could have halted progress, but it’s indicative of a band who often, according to Murphy himself, “bite off more than we can chew on everything”. This meticulous attitude towards making music can be felt in every single line of every single song on Nearer My God.
Track two, ‘Slapstick’, is a track that holds your hand and guides you gracefully into the new record. Melding together a collection of influences and sounds, ‘Slapstick’ is a ‘dance’ you don’t want to end, while the title-track, ‘Nearer My God’, has Murphy’s signature moving and captivating vocal front and centre.
However, it’s at the albums mid-point where you get a real sense of the band’s creative prowess. Square in the middle of the album, ‘Five Cups’ serves as a interlude of sorts, forcing us to relax and take a breather. On an album which features such an intense wheelhouse of influences and sounds, this 6-minute track lets you simply ‘absorb’ what is going on. Yet, despite its length, it doesn’t suffer from repetitiveness or typical post-rock fatigue – it’s a beautiful centre piece to the album.
Much like other experimental bands, Foxing allows technology to be their new instrument without letting it become the focal point, or overtake other aspects of the album. Which is a relief when you consider the vocal talent on show. Murphy’s voice is emotional and fresh throughout the album, reminding us that no matter how experimental or angry the band’s music, they will often stand above many solely on the strength of Murphy’s voice. This is no more evident than on the penultimate track, ‘Won’t Drown’; a track of technical guitars and a dancable drum groove, all of which merely support the emotional and captivating vocals.
In a way Foxing has created an album that resembles a Frankenstein monster – but one which stays in control, never letting its multiple influences distract from its most infectious and memorable moments. Piecing together the greatest aspects of what influences them separately, and as a band, Foxing has fashioned a record of grace, anger and vulnerability. It’s a tough ask when so many influences are on display, but they do it correctly, and with such apparent ease.
Nearer My God is out on August 10th via Triple Crown.