Recommended Tracks: “Draw Down the Moon”, “Beacons”, “Go Down Together”
Similar Artists: Manchester Orchestra, Citizen, Tigers Jaw
The St. Louis trio Foxing has become known over their decade-long career for consistently swerving into unexpected directions. Their debut The Albatross is a foundational text for anyone studying emo music in 2021, and 2015’s Dealer, while initially maligned by fans and critics for its sharp turn away from their initial twinkly emo roots has turned into a cult favorite for singer Conor Murphy’s honest lyricism regarding Catholic guilt and the band’s lush instrumentation. Nearer My God, released in 2018, was critically praised on its arrival, signaling Foxing’s swing-for-the-fences moment that would (hopefully) launch them into fame and make them known to a larger audience. Draw Down the Moon is an extension of Nearer My God’s ambition, with the band making another sharp turn into strong pop hooks that seem designed for the festival stage while still holding on to the idiosyncrasies that endeared Foxing to their fans in the beginning. It’s an easy contender for the best album released this year, the best album they’ve ever made, and it also might be their most polarizing work to date; no other band operates on these stakes quite like they do, and no other band can stick the landing like Foxing.
Any fears that the band wouldn’t retain the anthemic nature of Nearer My God should be checked at the door, as Draw Down the Moon contains some of the most thrilling moments that the band has put to tape. “737” starts the album off gently, until midway through it evolves into a massive post-hardcore-inspired breakdown centered around Murphy’s howl that he “can’t do this alone.” “Beacons” is absolutely exhilarating with its push-pull dynamics — what begins as a sort-of-EDM track shifts to becomes a dizzying sugar-rushed blitz that has ties to the most chaotic moments of Passion Pit. Single “Where the Lightning Strikes Twice” kind of sounds like Queen and Thin Lizzy ran into each other to write a song about not reaching commercial expectations; the craziest thing is that it all works. The title track has a bassline that is instantly addictive for listeners, along with a chorus that recalls the best of the blog-rock era — it’s an instant contender for the best song released this year. For a record that disparately reaches across the musical spectrum, Draw Down the Moon is remarkably cohesive with each song acting as a launchpad for the next one. Whereas Nearer My God had the distinction of being produced by former Death Cab for Cutie guitarist Chris Walla, the production for this album was kept in-house as guitarist Eric Hudson took the helm with the occasional helping hand from Andy Hull of Manchester Orchestra. In interviews, the band has talked about the long process of getting these songs exactly where they wanted to be; that process was entirely worth it because with each song Foxing puts everything into it to create a sound that is distinctly theirs.
Known for being remarkably transparent about the struggles of being a “middle-class” indie band (“Nearer My God” has Murphy begging “I’d sell my soul / to be America’s pool boy”), Draw Down the Moon spends a lot of time concerned with failure and disappointment: “Ever since I got going I’ve been going for broke” from “Go Down Together”; “With everything we gave it / It’s hard not to feel devastated” from “Where the Lightning Strikes Twice”; “I feel like a rover alone / Singing happy birthday to itself on Mars / My battery is low and it’s getting dark” from “737”. Draw Down The Moon has a lot to say about the idea of not reaching the lofty (or sometimes, sustaining) expectations that you can set for yourself as a creative and as a person. However, that doesn’t stop Foxing from tackling other weighty topics: on “At Least We Found the Floor”, the album’s most spare track, Murphy tells his partner that “Well honey, at least you found the floor / It can’t get much worse than this” only to follow up later with a sighing realization that “It’s gonna get much worse than this”. “Bialystok”, with the name taken from the Polish city, focuses on the longing homesickness that can come on the road with Murphy exclaiming over a disco-tinged drumbeat that “I feel so homesick everywhere I go without you”. “Speak With the Dead”, the album’s seven-minute-long opus of a closer that features Yoni Wolf from alt-rap group WHY? on backing vocals, deals with the idea of loss and impermanence — one of the most beautiful moments on the album occurs when the instrumentation all but drops out, leaving Murphy to imagine a simple conversation between himself and someone he’s lost: “In my dreams, I’m on a porch with you / I promise you I’ve been doing well in your name / And I won’t try to speak with you again / Until I watch my last breath dissipate”. Despite their pivot towards a brighter, more accessible sound, the heavy topics of their emo upcoming remain present; it creates a compelling dichotomy between sound and lyricism that can catch you off-guard if you don’t listen closely. Vocally, Murphy has never sounded better — where he once relied on a breathy falsetto on The Albatross has now turned into a mighty roar, delivering his emotion with an intensity to match the melodic guitar work of Hudson and the thundering drums of Jon Hellwig.
Nearer My God and its levelling-up seemed to simply extend the question asked by the protagonist of their emo classic “Rory” — “Why don’t you love me back?” — and challenge listeners to love them by making a general appeal to the masses. Those questions are still asked by Foxing on this album, but not out in a desperate cry; instead, Draw Down the Moon is Foxing putting everything on the table, telling listeners to take them exactly as they are, with every left turn and swerve creating something irreplicable among modern bands. They might describe their approach as “going for broke” in a negative way on “Go Down Together”, but Foxing going for broke is the most rewarding sound of 2021.
Stream or purchase Draw Down the Moon here.