A joyous seventh outing
Philip Girouas
17:19 14th June 2022

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When you think Foals, you usually think ferocious and fiery, not necessarily funky. However, on their seventh album, frontman Yannis Philippakis, drummer Jack Bevan and multi-instrumentalist Jimmy Smith have never sounded groovier. Landing just in time for summer and festival season, Life Is Yours feels tailor-made for sun-soaked beaches and joyous crowds as they evolve their sound past their trademark bite. 

Foals were only a couple of months away from touring their epic pair of concept albums about the end of the world (Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost) when ironically, like a prophecy, the world was grounded to a stand still. Whilst a delightfully dark double album which dwelled in melancholy and brimmed with rage, It perhaps felt too on the nose for the group to descend back to those depths. Alongside the pandemic, the group also saw the amicable departure of keyboardist Edwin Congreave. Now a three-piece, they returned to the studio, and the results are surprising.

When approaching a new Foals album, we have come to expect three things. Firstly, a big melodic indie-pop track which nestles itself into your consciousness for the foreseeable future. Secondly, an expansive and progressive rock track that evolves, twists and bends in unexpected directions. Then finally, a ferocious screamer that feels like a release of all the existential rage you have been feeling. With Life Is Yours, the band have opted away from including that trademark screamer full of bite and grit.

Deliciously, however, that has left room for an incredibly concise record. It is the first Foals album in over a decade that feels like it flows succinctly from the first track to the last. That is not to say there is not a clear divide in style. The bouncing first half focuses on their funkiest and most accessible sounds to date. The latter half, on the other hand, veers into more experimental territory evocative of their history of mammoth progressive rock tracks. 

Title track ‘Life Is Yours’ is a sublime scene-setter for the following 40 minutes. It glistens like the Mediterranean sun and its breezy chorus is reminiscent of Friendly Fires’ tropical-inspired sophomore record Pala. As an opener, it sets new, funkier foundations for the trio to build upon. Whilst neither are present you can feel the DNA of Nile Rodgers and even George Clinton deep within this first half. 

The dynamic of becoming a trio has seemingly had a major impact on Foals' sound and — how spacious it now feels. In a recent interview with broadcast legend Shaun Keaveny, frontman Yannis Philippakis mentioned that as a band, understandably, each member has a desire for their instruments to be heard. With only three members now playing a part in a track, whilst not exactly stripped back, it opens the group to allowing space and room to breathe in each song. The group have never sounded so succinct and tight as a result. 

Lead single ‘Wake Me Up’ is the sonic equivalent of a confetti cannon. A colourful and joyous assault on the senses. Never strangers to a festival anthem or two, the track rivals some of their biggest hits. In a similar vein to both ‘My Number’ and ‘Mountain at My Gates’, the chorus is just begging to be shouted by crowds of thousands. It’s a real testament to a group that nearly two decades into their career, are still crafting iconic and emphatic alternative hits. A special shout-out also has to be given to Philippakis' mantra of a bridge on the track, reminiscent of recent Self Esteem tracks. The band perhaps do not get enough acknowledgement for their consistently excellent bridge sections, and on their seventh record, there is certainly an excellent assortment to be found.

Another key aspect of the record seems to be their pairing with producer Dan Carey. Early demos of ‘2AM’ created on a keyboard by Philippakis indicated a moodier slow-burning progressive alt-rock track. Carey implored the group to delve into the track's big pop characteristics hidden deep within its chord structure and the final result is sensational. With the added rave and psychedelic energy surging through the song, it comes alive. Written in lockdown, '2AM' is an ode to the mysterious euphoria of a nightclub in full bloom. Philippakis is a wistful narrator on the slinking verses. Guitars slide lustfully as he describes the desire to end your night in somebody’s arms with closing time frightfully in sight. 

‘2001’ is another incredible high point, the recent spate of lockdowns feel pivotal to its lyrical themes of isolation, as Philippakis sings "waiting all day inside, waiting for a summer sky". It has also heightened the way Philippakis has managed to create a song that paints a visceral image inside your mind. He frequently opts for a dreamlike falsetto as he describes the "raspberry candy canes" and "violet tongues in the rain". It is a love letter to a bright summer in Brighton, one to which you are instantly transported by the velvety smooth percussion and tight electric guitars. 

The second half of the album sees the band dial down the funk and pop ever so slightly, instead opting for tracks that feel like one long extended band jam. Elements gradually escalate before eventually exploding and dropping away completely. The perfect example of this can be found on 'Flutter' which starts with a simple riff, seemingly inspired by the transcontinental sounds of Cornershop. Its melody feels like a modern interpretation of ancient Indian string sounds. Suddenly, you are introduced to a juxtaposing slamming rock riff. There is bass, there are synths, there is everything but the kitchen sink thrown at you, then suddenly it dissipates and just the melody remains. It is a mechanic that is frequently incorporated across the record's latter half.

‘Looking High’ meanwhile is the tightest the group have sounded, Philippakis embraces a falsetto on its dream-like chorus. It is refreshing to see the group so open to exploring new sounds across the album: here there is a real embrace of the psychedelic rock that’s been popularised by Tame Impala. ‘Under The Radar’ and ‘The Sound’ meanwhile feel like duets with close friends Everything Everything (the group have regularly toured with EE’s bassist Jeremy Pritchard in recent years) in everything but name. There have the cascading synths, cyberpunk terror within the lyrical themes and menacing booming backing vocals. 

‘The Sound’ especially is a masterclass in building up an unnerving amount of tension. It has an anxiety-inducing finale, as '80s-styled synths stab away whilst the literal sound of Yannis fills your brain like a volcano approaching eruption. Closer ‘Wild Green’ takes this cyber aesthetic even further. A progressive cinematic epic that could be equally at home soundtracking Blade Runner as it could fit blissfully into a techno rave set, it feels heavily influenced by Foals' recent foray into reworking and remixing some of their most beloved hits. 

Each time Life Is Yours fades out I have to reach over and play it again in full. The album has a real timeless feel to it. It is an absolute joy to hear Foals take the bold step of branching out their sound even further. Their commitment to experimentation and ability to effortlessly conjure up everlasting festival anthems are just two of the many reasons they have been such a strong and lasting force in the industry over the past decades, and long may it continue.

Life Is Yours arrives 17 June via 

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