Oxford four piece Foals originally made a name for themselves in the British indie scene with their own take on the forever-stylish dance-y indie pop sound. Their 2008 debut Antidotes played within the post-punk revival template popularized by Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand and the like in their native UK as well as Interpol over here. Keen to separate themselves from the throngs of post-Arctic Monkeys dance bands, Antidotes’ skittering, mathy rhythms and ample use of horns and keyboards added much needed groove to their hyperactive tunes. As they’ve progressed, Foals has begun to drift away from the jerkier elements of their music in favor of a more textural, atmospheric approach. Their newest release, Holy Fire proves that the band can have it both ways.
The album opens with the largely instrumental ‘Prelude’. Setting the tone for the album with a slow build, the song let’s loose its circular, repetitive riff and a lazy, swinging drum beat that drops in and out before some harsh power chords and sampled vocals close out the track. This leads right into the album’s first single and early highlight ‘Inhaler’. Replete with a stuttering, hi-hat heavy beat and Yannis Philippakis’ plaintive, reverbed vocals, the song’s lengthy bridge builds and builds until the song explodes with a heavy grunge riff as Philippakis clears the room with a bold declaration that he “can’t get enough space”. What an absolutely brilliant and unexpected moment from this group. The song leads into second single, ‘My Number’. An ultra-catchy dance-inflected tune about dancefloor hookups, the song rides along ultra-clean guitar lines and a simple, dare I say, funky drumbeat. The album’s middle three tracks play up the textural elements of 2010’s Total Life Forever favoring slower tempos and gradual progression. Yet, the horns and playful rhythms on ‘Out Of The Woods’ recall the band’s original sound. The album hits hardest though when the band seamlessly transitions between both styles. On ‘Providence’, the song’s distant vocals and guitars quickly pick up and a distinctly post-punk beat throws itself headlong into the mix only to fall apart and pick back once more.
With Holy Fire, Foals have delivered yet another batch of confident danceable rock that’s distinctly British and all the better for it. The more up-tempo cuts are basically begging to be heard on festival stages, and will certainly fit well in the band’s highly regarded live show. While, the slower tracks prove that the group has more up their sleeves than post-punk inflected indie hits.
The band hits North America this spring, playing alongside Surfer Blood and Blondfire. The dates can be found on their website.