by Sabrina Ruiz
Just months after their last album, indie rock band the FOALS made a breakthrough when their most recent release Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part 2 reached No. 1 in the UK. After taking a listen, it is unsurprising why.
The record opens with “Red Deserts,” a brief but enchanting introduction, as a dramatic organ similar to what is played prior to a movie rings out, arousing curiosity as the listeners are unsure what to expect. The introduction is intertwined with subtle guitar slides before the track effortlessly slides into “The Runner.” The climatic shift to this upbeat track instigates the album’s theme of inspiration, with motivation and encouragement evident in the lyrics. Frontman Yannis Philippakis explained that Part 2 is a sequel to the narrator’s conquest, starting new and pushing on through the wreck of his prior life.
“Wash Off” maintains the uplifting spirits, as the chorus of background vocals enhance the song’s message of kicking back from the world, the distinct lyrics reflecting on the wistful desire to keep moving. The guitars mingled with percussion mirror the song’s energy, while also coordinating with “The Runner”’s meaning.
Then, the album swiftly changes tides. “Black Bull” is a heavy tension-building riff all on its own, with emphatic drumming synchronized with the vocals– now tweaked with more aggression and condoning a tone of pride. The motives behind this track, according to Philippakis, are to capture the energetic aura the band feels when performing at a show, and they achieve just that.
Effortlessly transitioning to “Like Lightning,” the hand claps in the background maintain a confident vibe. With the track’s lyrics “Gotta be like lightning, be somebody new now,” sparking encouragement, the band’s hell-bent determination of dividing and conquering is clear as they tweak their sound to keep their energy.
“Dreaming of” marks the band’s shift to their melancholy and laidback tracks. The introduction starts out almost in a lull, as the title would suggest, with spacey sound effects and echoing reverb. The stroke of energy is still present, but in a more subtle way, the vocals now more hushed. Nonetheless, the guitars’ squalling pitch laced with Philippakis’ remorseful tone expressing having to constantly depart to a new place indicates the group’s genuinity. As he ruefully reflects in the bridge, “You want to push back the hands and start it again.”
Although initially off-putting, “Ikaria” manages to blend well with the prior songs, serving as the soft piano interlude to the album. This classic piece is an allusion to “Icarus” as Phililppakis explains. The context of their album is mainly Greece. Interestingly enough, this track was written as far back as the FOALS’ What Went Down era.
“10,000 feet” arguably has the most engrossing melodic introduction out of the whole album. The beginning molds long-sustained chords over a seemingly simple, yet well-fabricated guitar lick. Bringing back the passive aggression, the lyrics are further polished and complex. With the solemnity of “Cold black diamond, shine again, fall on the fire just to start again, burning star about to come again,” this song is another reference to Icarus, the story of a mythological figure who fell into the sea after he flew too close to the sun on wings held together by wax. In the world of music, it is fascinating to see the varying ways inspiration can be perceived.
The album is captivating enough that the concept of time is nearly forgotten, and soon the next to last track “Into The Surf” is up next. This track is slower, with sorrow and grief. Even then, there is positivity in light of its sadness. With striking words, “I’ll eat up all your pain…I’ll be like water, when you rise, plant a jasmine in the night,” it encapsulates a near-poetic feel.
“Neptune” is the album’s final track. This startling ten minute masterpiece has the astrological feel as “Dreaming of” did, continuing to drastically shift the tide of the overall aggression of the album with its gentle serenade. This changes when the drumming steadily climbs to the chorus, where Philippakis’ zestful voice rings out. The mini, groovy solos following the second chorus continue to add to the track, with descending licks expressing the glamour of a laid back tune. The scratches of the fretboards and bends in the interlude serve well to keep the song alive, with the second verse, “So come on, row me away, on black rivers and rainbows to Neptune, where I can stay” making a final impact.
All things considered, the FOALS sixth album is harder than their previous stuff, and not as poppy. The vibrance evident in each track is enough to keep the listener engrossed for the entire 40 minutes.