New Foxes EP is Hit and Miss
You may have heard the artist Foxes (real name Louisa Rose Allen) on the radio and thought “Now there’s an 80s band I don’t know.” That’s because Foxes could sit well in amongst the effervescent dance pop of the 80s. Her most well-known hit “Better Love” from 2016’s All I Need has the same type of bouncy hooks common in artists like mid-80s dance pop icons Cindy Lauper, Kirsty McColl, and Kim Wilde. That’s not to say that Foxes sounds like old music entirely. She still uses modern pop licks, simple EDM beats, and choir-like backing vocals, common in dance pop today. Foxes is uncomplicated but fun, the kind of music you play in the car as you head to the beach on a summer day with the windows down.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen a new Foxes album though. 2016 to be precise. Late last year, however, she started to drop a series of singles: “Love Not Loving You”, “Woman”, “Friends in the Corner”, “Hollywood”, and “Kathleen” were all released at the end of 2020. Late last week (somewhere around April 1), Foxes released these singles together, along with some additional songs, as the EP, Friends in the Corner. As an EP, it is a bit uneven. That’s not to say it’s not good – there are no bad songs and some if it is quite good – just that the order of the songs doesn’t suggest continuity of production.
The lead off song, “Friends in the Corner” is… pleasant. The lyrics are personal and emotional, such as “Everyone is looking like they need someone”, with a mid-tempo beat and plaintive vocals. Add to this the choir-like chorus and you have a conventional, pleasant, but unremarkable song, likely to do well on the indie pop charts. The next song, “Kathleen”, is also a conventional pop song. Slow beats, emotional lyrics and vocals, and finger snaps make this a good chill out song. It doesn’t cause one to stretch but it’s nice.
After two typical indie pop songs, the tempo changes with “Love Not Loving You” an up-tempo dance song full of disco licks, bass drops, and quick vocals. It’s the type of sexy dance song you want to hear on a dance floor at about 11pm. But then… the following song, “Hollywood”, is a traditional slow ballad with hyper-emotionality and vocals that range from quiet, nearly whispered, to sweeping and epic. It sounds like a song designed specifically to fit into a romantic movie at that moment when the main characters doubt their relationship and look wistfully over two different landscapes, missing each other despite their previous conflict. Or something like that.
The we’re back to up tempo music with “Dance”. Despite the name, it’s not really dance floor material. It’s about wanting to dance with someone. It’s a good song, clearly a “more than friends” song but it’s jarring coming on the heels of “Hollywood.” This is another rom-com song, but one made for that moment when the protagonists, realize they love each other and run into each other’s arms while dancing. Or something.
And if you don’t have whiplash yet, the EP moves once again back to a slower ballad, this time a piano driven power ballad, “Woman”. I expect it will end up many playlists sent to prospective partners in the future. The EP finishes with something more upbeat and epic. Unfortunately, “Courage” is full of epic song tropes. The sweeping orchestration, rising vocals, and lyrics like “I’ll give you my courage if you give me your troubles” are so done to death that it seems contrived.
That’s the big problem with this EP. It’s not a unified whole. There are plenty of great songs – I especially like “Love Not Loving You” and “Dance” – but they don’t mesh well together. The tempo of the album swings widely back and forth, and there is nothing that brings it all together. Even an EP constructed of previously released singles should have some thread that causes the whole to hang together. ON top of that, the songs are uneven. Some are so predictable, “Hollywood” and “Courage” especially, that they seem contrived to win a soundtrack deal.
Ultimately, this EP plays like a soundtrack to a movie you haven’t seen. The order of songs is dictated by an unknown plot instead of the steady hand of a music producer. Taken on their own the songs range from mundane to wonderful. Putting them together in the way they are arranged, doesn’t make them better. This is the anti-Gestalt – the sum of the parts is better than the whole. When it comes time for Foxes to produce a new complete album, I would expect that most of these songs would find their way onto it. Hopefully, more care will be taken with song choice and order. Albums and EPS should not be random assortments of songs. More care in production would have produced a better overall work.