Oxford five-piece, Foals, return triumphantly from their stunning sophomore LP, 2010’s Total Life Forever, with Holy Fire, an early contender for one of 2013’s best releases. Breathing fresh air into the genre of ‘indie rock’, the sounds that Yannis and co. explore are cemented in the present, assuring listeners that (if Holy Fire is any indication) music in 2013 is going to be great.
The haunting opener, Prelude, sets the balanced tone for the remainder of the album, as it ascends into sounds that mimic The Bends era Radiohead, with steady drums and steely guitars. The first single from Holy Fire, Inhaler, follows with just as much aggression. The track builds slowly into a truly massive chorus of pure rock sounds, with frontman Yannis Philippakis screaming at the listener that he “can’t get enough space”, on top of layered guitars.
This is certainly a heavier and more aggressive turn for Foals, the group famous for 2008’s indie anthem Balloons, and at this point, it may cause some admirers of the band to question their artistic decision.
However this aggression does not last long, as we plunge into pure indie pop heaven with the catchy and grooving second single, My Number. With its listener friendly dance beats and a clear drawback to oldschool Foals, it is a definite standout of Holy Fire.
Elsewhere on the album, the atmospheric and electrified Bad Habit soars with impeccable beauty, and the rushing electronic, tripped out sounds of Providence bring a truly bizarre and completely varied sound to the rest of the record. The slow drones of both Late Night and Out Of The Woods provide opportunities for frontman Yannis to exhibit his voice, whilst his band members experiment with unusual sounds underneath, the latter making the frontman sound close to Matt Berninger of The National.
The closing track of the album, Moon, flows with a stunning orchestral wave, with sounds that are perhaps reflective of the album’s title, relating to a religious epiphany, much like Arcade Fire did with their end track on the god-fearing Neon Bible.
Over 11 exquisite tracks Foals accomplish something that many indie bands struggle to do, find variation in their songs. No track on Holy Fire resembles another, yet the album feels cohesive, confident and purely sublime. Genre defying and feeling solidly like it belongs in 2013, Foals’ third album is a triumph and their best yet. If this is what the future of music sounds like, then bring it on.
This review was published in Issue 2, 2013 of RMIT’s Catalyst Magazine.