Foxing are still going for broke on ‘Draw Down The Moon’ (review)
"Ever since I got going, I've been going for broke," Conor Murphy sings on "Go Down Together," and if there's even been a lyric that sums up Foxing's entire career, it's that one. When they released 2018's Nearer My God -- now regularly referred to as the OK Computer of the emo revival -- it felt like Foxing had pushed themselves as far as they could go. It's one of the most musically ambitious albums of the past decade, and the band did not shy away from admitting that they bit off a little more than they could chew. Two years after its release, guitarist Ricky Sampson left the band, marking the second time a member of the band's classic five-piece lineup left, and leaving Foxing as a trio. It would be understandable if Foxing decided to reel it in a bit for Nearer My God's followup, but Foxing managed to stay just as motivated and ambitious during the making of Draw Down The Moon as they were for its predecessor. Once again, Foxing are going for broke.
Picking up where Nearer My God's festival-sized indie pop title track left off, Draw Down The Moon has the potential to be Foxing's most widely accessible album yet. But even when Foxing wholly embrace pop, they mess with the formula, recalling the glitchy sugar rush of Passion Pit's Gossamer or Sufjan Stevens' Age of Adz. The sort of pop albums that DDTM channels are these messy, underrated art pop masterpieces that never really fit in with anything else, and Foxing tend to interpret their influences in unexpected ways. Take "At Least We Found The Floor," it's the one song on DDTM that always reminds me of Hot Chip, and it's the somber acoustic one.
Releasing your "most pop album yet" can elicit cynicism, but even at their poppiest, Foxing remain fiercely innovative and drunk on determination. You can practically feel their blood, sweat, and tears coming through the speakers as you listen to Draw Down The Moon's impassioned, genre-fluid experiments. Opener "737" goes from the featherlight indie folk of Sufjan or Bon Iver into sludgy, throat-shredding post-hardcore without missing a beat. "Bialystok" goes from ambient glitch pop to the kind of dance-punk chorus that would've lit the blogosphere on fire in 2005. "Cold Blooded" would pass as jangle pop if Conor wasn't half-screaming his way through the verses. "If I Believed In Love" sounds kinda like Sade's smooth sophisti-pop until it becomes an explosive, arena-sized alt-rock song. The title track is a nearly-dysfunctional art rock anthem that fills the void TV on the Radio left by not releasing music for the better part of a decade. And then there's Foxing's best song yet, "Speak With The Dead," a seven-minute, modern-day prog rock song that stuns no matter how many times you listen to it. It was released as the first single, but on Draw Down The Moon, Foxing save the best for last.
It's no exaggeration to say that every song on Draw Down The Moon has a big hook, powerful enough to rope in even the most uninterested listener, but it also has extraordinary attention to detail. All of these songs have layers upon layers and they're peppered with all kinds of sounds, studio-as-instrument experiments, and subtle intricacies. It also just sounds great, with production that toes the line between the futuristic gloss of electronic pop and the warm, widescreen sound of a big-budget rock record. Credit goes to guitarist Eric Hudson, who -- after co-producing Nearer My God with Chris Walla -- stepped into the role of sole producer for this album. The band also tapped John Congleton (Sharon Van Etten, Angel Olsen, St. Vincent) to mix, and members of Manchester Orchestra contributed to both the writing and production process. The album's multi-layered, studio-manipulated rock is actually not unlike Manchester Orchestra's own new album The Million Masks of God, and some of the subject matter (love, death) is similar too. "Kind of unknowingly, we were making these sibling albums together," Manchester Orchestra's Andy Hull said.
As Manchester Orchestra have been able to do, Foxing seem like they're on their way to achieving a level of longevity that exists outside of any specific genre or scene. Nearer My God may have been "the OK Computer of the emo revival," but Draw Down The Moon isn't the anything of the emo revival, or of any other scene for that matter. And though the Foxing of Nearer My God sounded like a band who could collapse any second, the Foxing of Draw Down The Moon sounds sturdy and in it for the long haul. "We haven’t reached the apex of what we do and we haven’t made our true magnum opus," Conor said in a recent interview with SPIN. Or, as Conor sings on the title track, "I want to show you I can keep it all together."
Draw Down The Moon is out now on Foxing's own Grand Paradise label, in collaboration with Hopeless Records (order yours). Stream it and watch a few videos below.
Foxing are scheduled to tour with Manchester Orchestra this fall and in early 2022.