Oh I know you’re still with me, you’re my compass and my sea
About two years ago, I came across a song called “Spanish Sahara.” The slow tempo was gorgeous and the singer’s soulful voice delicately chants out haunting lyrics (“Spanish Sahara/ place that you’d want to/ leave the horror here”) while soft guitar is overlapped on top. The song then slowly crescendos into an explosive, emotional piece, and takes a whole new direction. I watched the music video and reveled at the stark white and barren landscape that served as the perfect backdrop to this beautifully crafted song. “Spanish Sahara” from their second album Total Life Forever is truly one of the most beautiful songs I have had the pleasure of listening to, and the moment I first heard it began my love affair with Foals.
Needless to say, I was intrigued and continued to listen to their other songs. Total Life Forever really took a step and a jump from Foal’s 2008 debut album Antidotes, where the songs were a bit more breathy and shaky like “Cassius” and light and airy like “Olympic Airways.” It took a more punk approach than their later albums, and matched the band’s ages and personalities during that time period. However, it did have an alternative side, and the lyrics were, for the most part, understandable. “Electric Bloom,” “Two Steps, Twice,” and “Hummer” shows off their instrumental chops, and proves that despite their age, they can pull off those impressive licks. “Mathletics” is the perfect little closer, and encapsulates everything great – unbeatable instrumentals, energetic, quirky vocals – that this particular album had to offer. Overall, Antidotes is raw, unrefined, and grating, but in the absolute best way possible. It was the start to a wonderful journey of self-discovery.
Spanish Sahara was from Foals’ second album, Total Life Forever, which contains gems like “Blue Blood”, a simple yet stunning melody paired with amazing lyrics, and “After Glow”, a more complex, energetic, and outspoken ballad. “Miami” is one of my absolute favorites from Total Life Forever and from Foals in general because the guitar riffs that dominate the song make me feel absolutely invincible, which is a quality that I crave with their music. What makes Foals so amazing in my opinion is the extreme commitment and dedication to the music. They know their strong points and they’re well aware of their weaknesses. The lyrics are deep, meaningful, and smart, all while being remarkably simple. Yannis Philippakis, frontman and lead singer, makes clear that these lyrics are deeply personal. While I can’t say at all that I’ve been through the same hardships that Yannis has had, I like to think that I really do understand the feelings being so clearly conveyed in his songs. I’ve read interview after interview where he basically pours out his heart and soul, and he is genuine, refined, and it really shows in his music. His lyrics have changed my life in a positive way and he does it all because he’s not afraid of showing his true emotions and experiences. I honestly wish I had the same attitude he does. However, it doesn’t stop there. I love each and every member of this band – Yannis Philippakis (vocals and guitar), Jack Bevan (drums), Jimmy Smith (guitar), Walter Gervers (bass guitar), and Edwin Congreave (keyboard). They goof around and laugh at each other like the best friends they are and get serious when it comes to the music.
Their third album, Holy Fire, truly changed my life. I remember hearing one of the singles, “Bad Habit” and instantly thinking that this album was going to be their most raw and aggressive album yet. I’ve read from other reviews that this album closely resembles what they are like live and in person, and the songs are heavier, deeper than their other songs. I mentioned before that there are vulnerable songs, masterpieces like “Out of the Woods”, “Inhaler”, and “Late Night”, along with more upbeat, dance songs like “My Number”, in which guitars and vocals battle for dominance. I can’t even count the number of times I turned up my favorite track off the album, “Milk and Black Spiders”, to the highest possible volume and screamed along to it. It’s my favorite simply because of the lovely, meaningful lyrics and because of the fact that I can feel the emotion and almost feel Yannis next to me, belting out these words. These songs are a release. A release of stress, of pain, of someone who honestly feels like they have kept everything in way too long and are about to explode. And while that may seem like a bad thing, I assure you it is not. The best bands and the best songs go both ways ; they always make you feel happy when you are fortunate enough to be, and sad when you need someone to understand your feelings. Songs and lyrics like these remind me how lucky I am to feel music so deeply and personally.
It’s funny because each of their albums has it’s own personality – Antidotes was more post-punk, Total Life Forever is smooth and mature, and Holy Fire is this aggressive, yet vulnerable masterpeice – but somehow they all flow together so nicely. This is what makes Foals such a force in the music world, and its a force that begs to constantly be rediscovered.