Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Album Review: Foals - Total Life Forever (4/5)

Time to review a few of the contenders for this year's Mercury Prize, to be awarded September 7. I already reviewed The XX last year, Corinne Bailey Rae earlier this year and I Am Kloot recently. Time to dig deeper.

Foals are a five-piece band from Oxford and Total Life Forever is their second album. It has a laid back but playful feel and moody underpinnings. First track “Blue Blood” lifts its chorus with cascading guitars, while darker “Miami,” has touches of synth pop. “Black Gold” clatters along during its verses but smoothes out for the choruses when the synth chords push to the fore. I also particularly like “After Glow,” which combines moody guitar playing with scratchy synths.

Some songs have a certain amount of quirk in a similar manner to Vampire Weekend, but with less fuss over instrumentation. Like on “This Orient,” which mixes playfulness with Bloc Party-esque dance textures. Others are just mellow and moody, particularly the final tracks, “Alabaster,” “What Remains” and “2 Trees,” which nonetheless builds up to a big climax.

At the center of this album is “Spanish Sahara,” a sweeping nearly 7-minute, multi-part song. It opens quietly with slow guitar strumming and some light distortion like the sound of the sea. Gradually it adds a hushed vocal, then a quickening bass drum. The guitar quickens, synths jump in, and everything gets louder as hi-hat dissolves the song into its second verse. Then at 4:00 the song really builds to its headiest, dance floor moment awash in layers and synth with a guitar solo. It’s a really great musical moment and a definite highlight on this overall rewarding album.

Best: Spanish Sahara, After Glow, Miami, Black Gold, Blue Blood

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