“Foxing is a band. One day Foxing won’t be a band.” The St. Louis group have adopted a simple mantra, albeit a heavy one for a band at the start of their career. The reminder of their mortality served them well for debut album The Albatross, a short but explosive record that flits between Midwest emo and chamber pop, packed full of emotional catharsis. The Albatross is the sound of a young band with a real sense of urgency, and the knowing that they might not get a second chance. The album’s success instantly placed them at the forefront of the so-called “emo revival” and earnt them tours alongside the likes of TWIABP, mewithoutYou, Tiger’s Jaw, and Brand New.
Just under two years since the release of their debut, Foxing return with Dealer. From the outset, it is clear that the album is not The Albatross part two, a route which would have inevitably satisfied their fan base.
Intro track ‘Weave’ is packed full of lyrical references to the previous album, which range from cryptic to a direct name check. Singer and trumpeter Conor Murphy uses the track to vent the exhaustion following such a thematically heavy album, and the guilt that comes with “making a living off of drowning”. Instead of dwelling on the past, as was his wont during The Albatross, Murphy is instead looking to try and move forwards, the song revolving around the refrain “How have I been stuck here for so long?” before concluding with the resolve “I’m alright, it’s time I moved on”. Musically, the progression reflects the lyrics. A sense of consistency is present within the instrumentation, the song is built around softly swelling guitar lines that ease their way into gentle climaxes. Murphy’s vocals are steadily softer than previously, where they would soar above the instrumentals and crash into screaming crescendos. The lower level of singing on ‘Weave’ and indeed the rest of Dealer proves even more captivating, forcing the listener to pay attention.
Lead single ‘The Magdalene’ is one of the standout tracks on the album, stretching its head and shoulders just above the high standards set by the rest of the record. ‘The Magdalene’ is based on Murphy’s Catholic upbringing, and the guilt that accompanied losing his virginity. The song does a tremendous job of mimicking the confusion that comes from the idea that the physical intimacy and love is sinful. The centrepiece of the song has Murphy questioning “Mother of God on the rosary, so is she here with us? Does she want what she sees?” before the sole guitar melody is joined by the full band as well as a woodwind and string section, creating a swirling yet elegant sense of chaos.
The new style of songwriting brings with it a sense of coherence. Instead of the vocals and gorgeous instrumental sections taking turns in the limelight, they meld to complement each other perfectly. If The Albatross is the alternating thrashing and recession of waves on the shore, then Dealer is the same waves in the deep water, rolling with a power hidden under the surface. Where Dealer really excels is in the care taken over every aspect. Each song is given space to develop, and the instrumental tracks ‘Winding Cloth’ and ‘Coda’ are far more than just interludes. ‘Winding Cloth’ is a four minute strings piece led by a sombre piano, allowing respite and reflection at the album’s halfway point.
The delicacy of the album is a perfectly suited counterpart to the thematically heavy lyrics. Religious and personal guilt are pervading themes, although they do not compare to the harrowing ‘Indica’. A first-hand recollection of bassist Josh Coll’s PTSD following military service in Afghanistan, the song recounts “young lung screams” of killed children haunting Coll’s sober hours. Notably, Coll doesn’t perform on the track, the vocals and guitar are joined only by a suitably military snare drum and trumpet.
The second half of the album has a high point with the one-two of ‘Glass Coughs’ and ‘Eiffel’, which see the record at its loudest and most insistent. On the latter, pounding drums anchor the masochistic hook “If I surrender too soon from under the diving bell, hold me down there anyway”, as Murphy yet again tries to cleanse his remorse.
With Dealer, Foxing have made a beautiful record fraught with emotion. The music is as light as the topics are heavy, and it is ideal for the cold winter ahead.
Dealer is out now via Triple Crown.
Dealer is available now on Triple Crown Records.