nearer my god
Foxing is nothing if not ambitious. In the months leading up to the release of their third LP, Nearer My God, the band released five versions of its title track, each recorded in a different language (yes, five). Lead singer Conor Murphy’s lyrics sound no-less authentic in any translation, and his soaring vocals carry the listener high above the clouds over each dynamic track. It’s a dramatic gaze into the tenacious minds of a band that has sonically shifted with each of their three full-length releases.
Like many contemporaries (The Hotelier, You Blew It!, and World Is...), Foxing must have realized that stagnating within the traditional emo sound of their first album would prove detrimental to their longevity. Murphy and company have therefore expanded to incorporate ambient synths, electronic dance, and even celtic bagpipes into their musical evolution. The album was co-produced by ex-Death Cab for Cutie guitarist/producer Chris Walla, who has a solid reputation for expanding sounds beyond traditional rock tropes. Opener “Grand Paradise” mixes pulsating synth beats with Murphy’s sharp falsetto, before pounding into a screeching verse where the singer exclaims, “I’m shock-collared at the gates of Heaven.” (Religious themes permeate the album, not surprising given the title’s allusion to the Christian hymn “Nearer My God to Thee.”)
At-times unhinged mid-album track “Five Cups” is a sweeping tune spanning over nine minutes. As it chugs on, it’s unclear whether the band is purposely alienating their audience, with Murphy’s wails soaring over distorted strings and synths. Also worth mentioning a second time are the bagpipes. Lord, those bagpipes on “Bastardizer,” a song which at first masquerades as a traditional stadium-rock track, before haunting reed aerophones slowly invade, inevitably taking over the entire track.
The band has long professed an interest in film, and there is certainly a cinematic quality to Foxing’s sound. Notably, founding bassist Josh Coll amicably left the band earlier this year to pursue a career in filmmaking, and has directed most of Foxing’s sweeping music videos, including the lead single from Nearer My God, “Slapstick.” Here, the band really reaches for the rafters with an anthemic new sound evoking TV on the Radio, Radiohead, even M83 - hardly the influences one would expect from a third wave emo outfit from St. Louis.
In a recent interview with Noisey, Murphy jokes that the band went for broke on the album. He also says that he’s never been happier, stating, “This is all of our favorite record. It feels like it doesn’t matter who we disappoint because we’ll have another record to figure out what we’re doing... But for now, we really made the thing we set out to make and we’re really proud of it, so at least we have that.” On their Bandcamp page banner, they declare, “Foxing is a band. Someday Foxing won’t be a band.” The statement isn’t necessarily a reflection on an impending or inevitable break-up; rather, it’s an offering to celebrate each fleeting moment of the band’s fragile existence. Foxing is seizing every moment of their ascent to the top, changing and growing stronger as they go, and the new album’s plateau is a panoramic sight.