Foxing - ‘The Albatross’ Review [AL]

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*Editor’s Note:  This “review” is, in itself, a comment on reviews for reviewing sake, and thus inserts the reviewer into the narrative of the critique.  Which, in itself, is a critique not lost on the reviewer.*

On July 26th, 2014, the following tweet was rendered on the ‘@WZBTSoundings’ account regarding the album, The Albatross, by the St. Louis based-band, Foxing:

"Some weird ass hybrid of emo, math-rock, and post-rock.  Guess what, that’s all been done before.  Put them together = a mess."

For a majority of you readers, you can stop reading right here as the above comment is the summation of a ‘review’ as I’d normally be willing to give this record under normal circumstances.  However, other forces have driven me to elaborate (or further qualify, if you will) my initial assessment of the record.  After all, how can one justify their own critique (or admiration) of music until you’ve entered the trenches yourself and blasted off multiple paragraphs of shit?  Yes, I must prove that I know a thing or two about “the tunes” as well - there’s always some kind of aspiring music blog or site looking for reviews on the cheap (read: free).  Most importantly, I shall not be accused of any fly-by-night Twitter reviewing or trolling no more.  This is real.  This is already more than one-hundred-forty characters.  Are you feeling it yet?  Yes?  I know I am.  As Foxing’s lead vocalist, Conor Murphy, proclaims on the plodding, Explosions In The Sky-laden track, ‘The Medic’ - “I, I, I, I, I wa wa wa want to be loved…

Actually, the above comment regarding EITS isn’t entirely accurate, as they (thankfully) eschew vocals in their music.  Vocals are one issue that plague The Albatross, as it points to the relative inconsistency across the entire record.  The lead-off track evokes both Wayne Coyne and Sufjan Stevens (and their respective brands) in one, I guess, ‘song’.  You find yourself caught up in the swell.  The feelings arise.  This stuff is magic.  How could you of missed it?  It has strings, maybe there’s a timpani in here too.  Throw it all in!  That tracked chorus with female vox supporting.  I don’t know the lyrics yet, but they sound important.  Is this an emo record!?  Shit, this is some hybrid of post-post-post-emo and some kids from the cornfields of Missouri just stumbled onto it!  Now, I’m looking at the cover.  You can see three dogs across some American landscape.  What does this mean?  Why are there three dogs?  They look contemplative, yet restless too.  This has to — no, this must mean something.

But you’re angry as well.  We all are.  This is a cruel world and Foxing doesn’t allow us the respite of solitude as the screaming begins :16 into the second track.  Ahh, this is the kind of stuff your older siblings were frothing about when Sunny Day Real Estate was in town.  This is that EITS track, by the way, but let’s stay on point here.  Obligatory “ambient” track on #4 which everyone seemingly is padding their records with now.  Aside: why are you all doing this, by the way?  Next track brings on the quiet/loud dynamic Foxing is gunning for.  An exercise in the post-rock connect-the-dots formula, but there’s some horns in there at the end.  I mean, screaming and horns on the same track!?  Brilliant.  I think the song is about a girl.

Nothing says serious like splitting your song into parts - and ‘Bit By Dead Bee Pts. 1 & 2’ simply says, “Hey, we have encore material and this is real.”  This is the true math-rock portion of the record.  Again, nothing beyond June of 44 or Don Caballero (or, most likely their successors) here but pair it with full-on screamo now.  Grit and bear Pt. 1 and stay for the falsetto of Pt. 2.  Had enough?  No, then move one space for the “greatest-hits-up-to-this-point-of-the-album” track, ‘Den Mother’, that throws it all in.  The production was smart enough to work the mix correctly.  Praise is due.  Another filler ambient track, this time with a piano accordion.  Mind blown, obviously.  The last track evokes the first, giving The Albatross a cyclical quality, which is very important for an LP like this.

When you strip away the influences, or crass lifting of them, it’s very difficult to ascertain who this band is.  Some level of preparation and thought is present, so Foxing skirts along on presentation, but content is negligible, if not plagiaristic.

Ultimately, what has been conveyed here in five paragraphs does not really elaborate on the content of the original tweet above.  Could this even be noted as a review?  Probably not, as it contains no further context, band/artist narrative, or quotes.  I lifted where the artist is from and name of one band member (out of necessity).  In essence, it’s just the music - almost entirely stripped of anything but its purest reproduction.  No live show, no previous knowledge of, and no external variables to influence.  Professional reviewers do not have the luxury to strip away nefarious dealings and other nasties of the “music biz” with self-involving PR tactics in tow.  You sit in front of a record long enough, you’ll find something to appease or push through.  Any record, however, has to connect in some form of immediate way, even if it warrants further review.

So, we’re back to where we began.  As an individual who is influencing this media in a medium that’s not print, I have neither the time, nor the inclination, to write long-form about this stuff.  But, hey, if this warrants the validity of even having a valid opinion on the validity for the sake of validity, well, then, job accomplished.  I wasted an hour of my life because I write too damn sloooooow.

And The Albatross was a pass for us.  Not for format.

The Black Keys - ‘Turn Blue’ Review [MD]

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Track by Track Breakdown:

"Weight of Love": Fantastic start. Contemporized psychedelia with an emotional complexity and poignancy that is truly adult. Very expressive guitar work. Awesome bass sound. All the stylistic vectors—rock, blues, R&B, pop, soul—come together brilliantly.
Possibly their finest single track, but certainly tops on this release.

"In Time": Heavily R&B/soul influenced. Dan’s falsetto works here, but the synth washes/vamping interfere. Lots of cool discrete elements, but do they work as a whole? Maybe this one will grow on me.

"Turn Blue": More R&B and falsetto, with trippy synths thrown in for texture. Pretty flat "must continue on despite the heartbreak" stuff.

"Fever": Yes, well…catchy. Certainly the logical end product of the R&B pop of the preceding two songs. I like the cognitive dissonance of the depressive lyrics set to a mindlessly upbeat score, but in the end I’m left wondering, why this approach?

"Year in Review": Adds strings to the musical palette. A little Philly soul? This gets more effectively to the point musically than "Fever."

"Bullet in the Brain": A nice slice of slightly off-kilter pop-psych. The Chinese string effect is a cool, quesy, fun-house touch.

"It’s Up to You Now": A Bo Diddley beat drives this bit of garage psych up to the bridge, which ushers us into an electric psych-blues jam. No complaints.

"Waiting on Words": A song divided against itself. The opening falsetto verse just can’t be rescued by the infinitely superior chorus. I want to like this more than I do, but it just doesn’t gel.

"10 Lovers": Please make the falsetto stop. It’s inelegantly showy, coming off as almost comic, and wholly unnecessary, much like this song, which is a throwaway.

"In Our Prime": Back to the pop-psych, though in ballad form here. Builds nicely, and the time changes are generally effective. Expressive closing guitar solo. Again, no complaints.

Gotta Get Away”: Great seventies-style rocker/kiss-off song. CCR influenced? Yes. The falsetto as part of the chorus is definitely the way to go.

Overall, Turn Blue is thankfully not as bad as “Fever” suggested upon it’s release as a single, but it’s at best a partially satisfying listen. B-/C+. [MD]

I really wanted to make the worst thing, the thing that even people who liked bad, terrible music wouldn’t like, the stuff that people would ignore, always. Something really, really stupid. Something that is destined for failure.