Foals – Total Life Forever

Rating: ★★★★ ·

When Foals first came around the United States they barely made waves over here with their debut Antidotes, but having a few more years of growth has allowed them to push their sound in a much more confident manner, creating a wonderfully unassuming pop record.  Total Life Forever never really hits you in the face, but that doesn’t seem to be the band’s point of emphasis here, choosing instead to relax and let the good times come as they please.

When the opening moments of “Blue Blood,” the distinctive vocals of Yannis immediately bring to mind bands like Frightened Rabbit, but as you hear building percussion and guitar in the mixture the song quickly breaks into a rhythmic piece of pop.  Ringing guitar chords give it a bit of a shimmy, but as mentioned before, it never just comes out and hits you over the head with power chords, nor jangly guitars.

Perhaps some might be averse to submerging themselves in the rhythmic vibe of this record, but if you’re only searching for something that gives a swing to your step, then this might not be the album for you. “Miami” has a slow paced groove with a simple structured chorus, but there’s definitely a groove lying beneath it all.   And sure, “Total Life Forever utilizes angular guitar work throughout to accompany the gang vocals, but Foals seem more willing to focus on slowing things down just a bit, as they do near the end of the song.  In a sense, it allows for a much better energetic release for listeners, as you’re not spent after listening to the first three tracks, as you are with other similarly categorized groups.

One of the greatest things about Total Life Forever seems to be that these five lads just aren’t too interested in meeting expectations.  This album carries three songs over the six minute mark, which isn’t odd, unless you consider their last effort didn’t have a single song meeting that mark.  “Spanish Sahara” creates a sort of a really quiet bedroom pop number, the sort my older sister jammed too in the late 80s.  It’s full of nothing at points, which is a remarkable feat considering that most bands love the excessive layering nowadays. Very similarly, “After Glow” lives in sort of an art-punk dance pop realm, and while it resembles the other six minute numbers, it pushes things in a bit of a different direction with some cacophony and a quicker pace.

Don’t get me wrong, I, too, enjoy an upbeat number, much like the single “This Orient,” though in contrast to a lot of stuff out there, its probably not an over-the-top pop track.  Steady drumming, and awkward chanting vocals in the background create an odd effect, but that swirling hook in the chorus is really sublime.  This is probably as close, however, as you’ll get to really straight ahead pop tunes.  Even with that in mind, there are some minor missteps, like “Fugue,” which is only 49 seconds, and doesn’t add a single thing.

Everything about this record is quiet, and yet it’s really vibrant at the same time. The rhythmic elements slowly unfold when you least expect them to, and you’ll find yourself exploring for various levels of hook and texture while listening to Total Life Forever. In sitting back to construct this record, rather than pushing their sound in your face, Foals have created a far more meaningful second album than any had come to expect, but expectations will only get higher from here lads. Cheers to that.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/06-This-Orient-1.mp3]

Download: Foals – This Orient [MP3]

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