Foals emerged in the late 2000s with an off-balance indie rock influenced by catchy new wave, math rock, and atmospheric post-rock. It proved a successful formula; their first album, 2008's Antidotes, reached number three in their native U.K. Over the next decade, they developed a distinctive balance between jittery dance rock and spacy atmosphere on albums such as 2013's Holy Fire, which marked their Billboard 200 debut. Formed in Oxford, England, by longtime friends Yannis Philippakis (guitar) and Jack Bevan (drums), along with Andrew Mears on vocals, guitarist Jimmy Smith, and bassist Walter Gervers, Foals -- whose name is a play on the etymology of Philippakis' name -- began as a way to protest against the proggier sounds that were both popular in Oxford and in Philippakis and Bevan's former band, the Edmund Fitzgerald. After releasing the single "Try This on Your Piano" in 2006, Mears left Foals in order to more fully concentrate on his other group, Youthmovies (formerly Youthmovie Soundtrack Strategies), and Philippakis -- who had lived until he was seven in a tiny Grecian village -- added the role of lead vocals to his guitar-playing duties. Edwin Congreave, a fellow Oxford student the frontman had met when they were both working at the same bar, and who introduced the group to techno, soon joined in on keyboards, despite the fact he had never played the instrument before -- nor ever been in a band -- and the full lineup of Foals was completed. The quintet worked on perfecting its complex sound by playing house parties around the area, and soon the group was signed to Transgressive Records, which released the singles "Hummer" and "Mathletics" in April and August of 2007, respectively. Foals picked up quite a buzz in the U.K., and in June 2007 they went to New York to record their debut album under the guidance of producer and TV on the Radio guitarist Dave Sitek. The sessions went well, but the bandmembers ended up not being happy with the final mix, choosing instead to remix it themselves, and issuing the full-length, Antidotes -- which, incidentally, included neither "Hummer" nor "Mathletics" -- in March of 2008, while Sub Pop picked up the album in the U.S. and gave it an April release, adding the two neglected singles as bonus tracks. Two years later the band returned with its sophomore album, Total Life Forever, released by Transgressive Records. After having songs appear on shows like Entourage and Misfits, the band returned in early 2013 with its third album, the expansive Holy Fire, Foals' first record to chart outside of Western Europe, cracking the Billboard 200 in the U.S. and topping the album chart in Australia. A concert DVD/Blu-ray, Live at the Royal Albert Hall, followed that fall, and picking up where Holy Fire left off, What Went Down arrived in the summer of 2015. They toured Europe and the U.S. in 2016, including shows with Everything Everything as support, and returned to the studio in 2017. Early the next year, the band confirmed that founding member Gervers had left the group on amicable terms. Other members filled in on bass in remaining sessions. Foals re-emerged in 2019 with their fifth and sixth studio LPs, Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, Pt. 1, which arrived in March, and Pt. 2, which followed later in the year. ~ Marisa Brown & Marcy Donelson
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 31, 2013 | Warner Bros.
Distinctions Sélection du Mercury Prize
While there are lots of bands dealing in either danceable rock or navel-gazing pop, few bands combine the two quite like Foals. On Holy Fire, the third album from the English band, the post-punk revival is given a newfound sense of depth, creating songs that are rhythmic enough to draw listeners, but hypnotic enough to leave listeners lost in their wide-open spaces. This combination of atmosphere and momentum find Foals growing out of the shadows of titans like the Talking Heads and into a spaced-out, dance-punk niche that's all their own. Though a lot of the band's charm comes from the delicate interplay between the guitars and keyboards, the real star of the album comes by way of the massive, stadium-ready "Inhaler," which takes the sparkling, slow build used throughout the album and turns it on its ear with an eruption of massively fuzzy, Muse-esque guitars (and, to some extent, their bombast), creating one of the albums biggest and most rousing moments. Now that they're three albums deep, it feels as if Foals have found a nice middle ground between funk and feeling, making Holy Fire an album that is just as likely to get a room moving as it is to send its inhabitants into a fit of introspective conversation. This kind of duality is something that's hard to find, and it's a quality that could take Foals a long way if they're able to hold onto it. ~ Gregory Heaney
Alternative & Indie - Released August 28, 2015 | Warner Bros.
Following up Holy Fire can’t have been easy ... And to do so, Foals fling themselves headlong into a rock ‘n’ roll tsunami. With What Went Down, the Oxford gang retain their unique rock essence whilst also aiming for a wider audience. This, their fourth studio album, is undoubtedly another radical change for the band. In reaching a larger public, one might think that Yannis Philippakis and his band would have to sell their souls to the devil… The truth is quite to the contrary. What Went Down possesses a sound that hits home at the end of the first listen; the album’s guitars are rhythmic, colossal as mountains. The title track, in particular, is a force that sweeps away everything in its path, helpfully aided by the vocal charisma of Philippakis. Dark and oppressive, the album never loses sight of the importance of song structure. Raw power is an asset, a weapon for Foals, and never simply an end in itself. So much the better. This is a strong contender for the title of best indie rock album of 2015…
Alternative & Indie - Released May 12, 2010 | Sub Pop Records
After Foals scrapped the mix of their debut, Antidotes, by TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek, it was clear that they were a band that was interested in creating their own sound. That sentiment may be why their follow-up, Total Life Forever, sounds more like a reaction to their first record than a continuation of it. Many of the elements that drove Foals into the spotlight in the first place are definitely still in place. There’s plenty of cascading, Minus the Bear-style guitar work and funky Talking Heads influence in their math-pop-meets-the-dancefloor rhythms. What’s missing is the edge. Total Life Forever is considerably more subdued than its predecessor, lacking much of the uptempo thump found on Antidotes. In its place is a mellower, more spacious sound. While this new sound is still danceable, it’s far more refined than the angular post-punk riffing that fans might be expecting. Right from the beginning, the album-opening, “Blue Blood” makes it clear that Foals are taking a different, more patient approach to songwriting, letting the song build and build on itself as it methodically works itself into a frenzy before leaving the way it came in. Because of the changes here, fans of the early, pre-Antidotes singles may find Total Life Forever to be too restrained, lacking the youthful vigor of their debut. Where some see restraint, others may very well see refinement, and those who appreciated Antidotes' more spacy passages will find that Foals' reinvention of their sound is a calculated risk that definitely pays off. ~ Gregory Heaney
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