Foals – Holy Fire
Record Label: Warner Bros Records / Transgressive
Release Date: February 11th 2013
Randomly being introduced to bands/artists can be a really awesome thing. There have been many times where I’ve vaguely heard of a band, artist, or record in general, and checked it out without even knowing too much about the band or record in question. One record that’s recently caught my eye is English outfit Foals’ third record Holy Fire. As Craig Manning from Absolutepunk.net put it, “You don’t give an album title like Holy Fire without having something epic and spacious waiting underneath the shrink wrap.” That record title, as well as the artwork, drew me in; it’s very atmospheric, chill, and mysterious. It looked quite promising, to say the least. What I ended up listening to was very interesting experimental indie-rock with classic rock influences. I will admit that this is not the best record I’ve listened to all year, and it’s far from it, but it’s certainly not terrible, either. At 49 minutes, it’s a rather lengthy record, but it doesn’t drag on too much. There are a few tracks that don’t do a lot for me, but as a whole, this record is certainly unique, and interesting. The artwork really does the record justice, because it’s very atmospheric, experimental, and takes a lot of twists and turns. It’s not consistent, but it’s too jumbled or confusing to follow. That’s a very hard balance to master, and this band does it nicely. Vocalist Yannis Phillppakis is another thing about that record that makes it an interesting listen; his voice isn’t the best I have ever heard, but it definitely fits with the music itself. The instrumentation and Phillppakis’ compliment one another, but to be completely honest, lyrically, this record is rather boring. I’ll talk about specific examples later on in the review, but this record is boring in the lyrical department. It’s cliché at some points, and boring. There are a few moments that keep my attention, but thankfully, the music itself is really what drives this record. And it makes the cliché and boring lyrics a bit more forgivable. So with all of that said, let’s start a holy fire, and spin this record, shall we?
The record begins with “Prelude,” and it’s exactly what the title says – it’s just an intro track, nothing too spectacular. It takes a minute for it to build up, and it’s got some muffled vocals with a soft guitar riff. By the two-minute mark, it has a rather “groovy” guitar riff with some distorted vocals. This track is merely a prelude to get the album started, but it does give the listener a nice way to introduce him/herself to the band. The last minute of the song picks up a bit more, and eventually leads into the next song, “Inhaler,” which is one of my favorite tracks off the album. Finally, Phillippakis’ vocals are shown in full force, and to be honest, he’s not the best singer I’ve ever heard. The production on his vocals throughout the song, and whole record are rather strange, too. It’s almost like they’re far away, because they sounded like they’re echoing. They’re kind of cool, but his vocals really don’t have any range because he sounds the same throughout the entire record, which is one of my biggest gripes with this record. The music itself, on the other hand, is quite interesting, though; “Inhaler” seems to fluctuate between spacious and epic and chill and calming, which is kind of how the whole record sounds. Third track “My Number” is another one of my favorite tracks, because this has a very electronic/indie-pop sound it. The keyboards and synths play a huge role in this song, with Phillippakis singing very catchy lyrics over it. This is a rather infectious song, which is surprising, considering most of the songs on this record are very spacious, open-ended, and don’t adhere to any formula whatsoever.
Despite that, a lot of record does sound quite similar throughout. That’s not an awful thing, because their sound is rather unique, but it does drag on a bit at times, specifically in songs like “Bad Habit,” “Out of the Woods,” and a few others. On the other hand, songs like “Everytime,” “Milk & Black Spiders” show some great potential from the band. “Everytime” is another indie-pop/synth influenced track that has a very catchy sound, and provides a bit of contrasts to songs like “Inhaler,” and another experimental track “Late Night.” “Milk & Black Spiders” kind of combines both sounds, the spacious and catchy sounds into one song, and this is my favorite track on the album, honestly. It’s also the longest song on the record at a little over five minutes, but it works quite well. The rest of the record is rather nice, and in fact, “Providence” is an insane track. It’s the most frantic and aggressive track on the record, actually. That’s quite a contrast from the last two tracks, which are both pretty relaxing. Last track “Moon” is a very chill, and quiet track that’s very slow, and honestly serves as an outro, rather than a last track.
As I mentioned, this record has some very good things, and some things that I don’t quite like about it. One thing I loved about it were the overall instrumentals. These guys can obviously play their instruments, and it doesn’t adhere to any clichés or formulas. But on the other hand, the vocals were a bit bothersome to me at times. Not because he is an awful singer, but merely because he has almost no range. His voice barely changes throughout the record, so every song is only unique thanks to the instrumentation. The vocal effects are cool to some degree, then just get rather tiresome and boring after awhile. Lyrically, it’s a bit cliché, and watered down, but nothing too bad, so they’re rather forgivable, mainly because the music itself is wonderful. In terms of records released this year, it’s not my favorite, but I can see it being on a lot of end of the year lists, if not very high.