Five-piece Saint Louis, Missouri rock conglomerate, Foxing planted their flag in indie circles with their debut album, The Albatross, early last year which was considered an underground success. Stylistically in lineage of bands like Pianos Become the Teeth and The World Is a Beautiful Place and I’m Not Afraid to Die, The Albatross was heralded for its amalgamation of post rock, ambient, emo, and punk rock. Furthermore, this record’s buzz is fueled by their bombastic, emotional performance that translates well from record to on stage. Now with extensive national touring along legendary acts like mewithoutyou, and unfortunate events surrounding their gear being stolen in Atlanta, we have their highly anticipated sophomore release, Dealer, out on Triple Crown Records.
I actually have my good friend Andrew back home for introducing me to this band. I went with him to mewithoutyou’s reunion tour in Minneapolis this summer as a favor to him. As heretical as it sounds, I wasn’t and am still not really a fan of mewithoutyou (only for the fact that it’s not my taste), but I went with Andrew because he suffered through August Burns Red with me that February. Foxing was the opener and I had never heard of them until that evening. Both of us were blown away! To the point, in fact, where I bought a physical copy of The Albatross at the show and I’ve been following ever since. I was really excited to hear what this new album had to bring to the table, especially since their first singles leaned more heavily into their respective musical influences.
Pitchfork said it best when introducing the tone of this record in their review of it… “Dealer is not an easy listen. It sounds like it was very difficult to make, and reliving it is going to be even harder.” The band confirmed this on their Facebook page when promoting their new record, saying it’s a record about loss. Loss is the best way to describe the aura of this album. The instrumentals and vocals are enveloped by this idea of coping with losing innocence and a sense of self like a warm blanket trying to treat hypothermia after lead singer Connor Murphy had been drowning in the cold of lost religion, bassist John Coll serving in Afghanistan, and navigating the fallout from broken relationships. Foxing’s first record still packed an emotional punch, but this sophomore release is the feeling of recovering from a mugging by comparison. As with most if not all post rock – Explosions In the Sky, Godspeed You Black Emperor!, and The Sleep Design, the instrumentals on album drip with atmosphere as it runs its course. Synthesizing emo and ambient influences like American Football and Hammock on top of the aforementioned pool of post rock, this album fuses these genres into a unique and cohesive listening experience that reminds me of how Sufjan Stevens built a melancholic self-portrait on Carrie & Lowell.
Weave opens this record with a bright, reverb heavy guitar tone (that makes for one of the catchier, more memorable songs on this album) and drums that build up to its climax and explode into the final minute and a half. Connor Murphy’s vocals don’t sound nearly as ravenously emo like he did on The Albatross, which works well with this song, but in the parts where you expect him to throw caution to the airwaves and let it out, he chooses not to and reserves himself. Though this element turns the dimmer down on this band’s light switch, the raw emotion is still retained. Night Channels is by far my favorite song on Dealer. Building on a cavernous sounding grand piano and Murphy’s softer vocals that serenade the ghosts of his troubled relationships, this song transitions into a shimmery guitar tone that compliments the piano line and dims to an emotional end. At the half way point, Winding Cloth brings an instrumental tracks drenched in orchestral chaos and ambient piano. Redwoods is one of the most somber tracks on this record with ambient keyboards and violinist, Emma Tiemann, soprano voice back dropped behind the hollowed guitar and Murphy’s most nimble vocals. By the halfway mark, the drums climb this mountain top into a war drum pound that calms, climbs, and comes back down to end the track.
Pitchfork had it right when they said that this didn’t sound like an easy record to make. Throughout many other reviews and interviews I’ve seen about and with the band, lead singer, Connor Murphy, seems to be going through a phase of lamenting years of life spent entangled with a sense of religion lost to the lingering guilt of sexuality on songs like The Magdalene and Glass Coughs. Not only that but John Coll’s song about serving in Afghanistan on Indica haunt the listener with a visceral ballad about the atrocities of war on the human psyche. As I said in the introduction, this record is definitely about loss. Though the topicality is despondent, it feels human. Natural. Convincing. Listenable. These songs have a lot of replay value even with such depressing lyricism.
This album is produced like most post rock – polished guitars, big, booming percussion, and a lot of ambiance laced into each track. I think that the production style’s more unilateral approach to its genres actually makes this a stronger listen. The punk has been for the most part shelved, so the rawness is otherwise supplemented in other areas… and done well. One of this album’s strengths is the piano parts. It sounds like you’re sitting in an empty concert hall listening to tracks like Night Channels and Redwoods. With that said, Dealer does have balance between those elements. It adds to a cohesive narrative.
Between well-composed songs with thoughtful instrumentation, flow, and emotionally charged vignettes, Dealer is the best response to The Albatross Foxing could have written, and it’s been one of my favorite records this year that I enjoy even more with every listen. I highly recommend this record to anyone who is… ah what am I talking about. ANYONE.