Published on August 16th, 2018 | by Noah Dimitrie0
Foxing – Nearer My God
Foxing’s new album, ‘Nearer My God,’ comes at a time where some think the state of the world makes music ripe for an emo revival.
“I’d sell my soul…” frontman Conor Murphy careens, “to be America’s pool boy.” Dripping in self-deprecation, the emo skeptics of the world might shrug at this line out of context, but when we hear the refrain — the deafening “Does anyone want me at all?”— it adds up.
The series of anthemic proclamations in the title track from Foxing’s new LP, ‘Nearing My God,’ serve a metaphorical angst; an angst that goes outward, to our collective surroundings, our future as parts of a whole. If there is any reason for an “emo revival” — as some critics have described bands like Foxing — it is this profound cloudiness we sense floating above our world. Social isolation, insidious populism; hell, we’re literally destroying our planet. And a tiny fraction of that weight —- that of a generation of frightened cynics — is transposed into Murphy’s moody falsetto, enough to us to pay closer attention than the average bedroom-melancholy emo record. Along with it comes an ambitious arrangement of post-rock instrumentation, combining the catchy licks of Band of Horses with the spaced-out experimentation of Radiohead or Spiritualized. While its not exactly flawless, ‘Nearer My God’ is a creative and earnest cry for help, a desperate plea for answers.
The St. Louis quartet is coming off of their 2015 LP, ‘Dealer,’ an album that received ambivalent praise from critics who cited the band’s ability to write a hook but also their lack of ambition, especially within a genre full of copycats of copycats. As a big fan of their first record, ‘Albatross,’ even I started to get bored midway through their follow up, as it plodded along with a lot of the same stirring but ultimately directionless post-rock tropes. So when the first single, ‘Slapstick’ dropped I was almost afraid to listen. But that track — which actually may be the album’s most conventional tune — had a captivating confidence to it, along with the type of memorable grooves the band has staked their reputation on. Needless to say, I was intrigued.
But it was not until I had a chance to listen to the whole project from start to finish that I understood the massive sonic leap they had made. If their first two albums were the emo equivalent of scented candles, their new project more like a firecracker, blasting dynamic sparks in unpredictable directions. It’s constantly visceral, and sometimes pretty damn lovely too. On the opener, ‘Grand Paradise,’ the first sound we’re greeted with is a demure drum machine, a sign of inventive things to come. The vocal melodies themselves are infectious, though pretty faithful to the emo sub-genre; its in the moments between the angsty screams that this album comes into its own. We see that most explicitly in ‘Lich Prince’ and ‘Gameshark,’ songs that come along and shake up any sense of ease that we might have still had in tact with their frenetic but layered instrumentation.
From here on out, the album gets more comfortable in its own skin; ‘Nearer My God,’ ‘Five Cups,’ ‘Heartbeats,’ and ‘Bastardizer’ combine to form the emotional epicenter of the album, in which the band’s ambition intersects with noticeably confident but restrained songwriting. And while the back third of the album has its rousing moments, it might be the only section in which the novelty wears off, with ‘Won’t Drown’ and ‘Lambert’ blurring together in all too familiar ways. However, this is a mild misstep, an almost justifiable fatigue from the raucous pace the record keeps for most of its runtime. Forgivable, considering they’re still pretty decent rock songs compared to a lot of what the subgenre has to offer.
Overall, this is Foxing’s best release. Its lyrics are smart and quotable, and they’re draped in fiery anthems that are destined to be screamed in mosh pits for years to come. And it’s no mystery why these choruses — as obtuse as they may be — are so infectious. They’re rooted in a candid, vulnerable point of view. Maybe it’s not just Conor Murphy’s; maybe it’s more universal. Nevertheless, evoked in these songs is a fear not only of oneself, but of the world around us. And it’s a cry for help that avoids self-indulgence, or at the very least, covers it up with dynamic melodies and creative experimentation. Though it doesn’t totally penetrate the thick barriers of the emo-subgenre, it definitely makes a well-needed dent in what our understanding of emo means in 2018.