The Oxford indie veterans have managed to reinvent themselves again, delivering a consistently fun and bright record to soundtrack summer 2022.
When Foals announced the departure of keyboardist and original founding member Edwin Congreave last September, it was difficult not to get caught up with worry about their long-term future. With the current members, who came together in 2005, now firmly in their mid-30s, it felt like another sign that the Oxford band’s days were numbered.
Whilst many bands who reach that age plough on, others, thanks to added life responsibility, find it difficult to fully commit to consistent musical output and touring schedules. Take fellow noughties-indie beginners Arctic Monkeys as an example. One album has been released since 2013 with rumours (granted, mostly unsubstantiated) spreading that their next effort will be their last.
Thankfully, the final line of Foals Instagram announcement post gave us more than a glimmer of hope of Yannis and co’s show must go on mindset. “We’ve been writing music as a three-piece”, the statement would conclude, “which we cannot to share with you”. There was light at the end of the tunnel. We needn’t have worried after all.
Foals have been through all this before and come out the other end even stronger. In 2018, bassist and founding member Walter Gervers left the band on seemingly amicable terms. With new music lacking in the three years to that point, similar concerns were being broadcast. Then, in an unexpected move a year later, Foals would gift us with two albums in the space of six months (Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Parts 1 and 2).
Over the two albums, the band possessed a new found freedom to alternate between synth-pop, funk and heavier rock sounds. They bettered the staleness of 2015’s What Went Down and were nominated for a third Mercury Prize. There was also the small matter of their first ever UK number 1 album.
Another man down from their original lineup, Foals defiance to carry on is admirable, now returning with their seventh studio album Life Is Yours. After over two years of hardship due to pandemics and lockdown restrictions, Foals latest is an escape from the moments of anxiety and darkness heard on their most recent efforts. Instead, they’ve offered a collection of tracks fit for any ‘summer vibes’ playlist, encouraging the listener to get their dancing shoes on and their funk on.
Speaking about Foals new album, frontman Yannis Phillippakis revealed how they wanted to showcase “a DNA throughout the songs: a physicality, a danceability, and with energy and joyousness. It’s definitely the poppiest record we’ve ever made.”
The release date couldn’t have been timed any better with the beginning of summer here and holiday season fast approaching. Fourth preview single ‘2001’ is case and point for their new found positive approach. With references to “Brighton rock” sweets, “beachside candy canes” and that buzz for summer (“I’ve been waiting all day inside / waiting for a summer sky / when we run wild / we’ll come up for air and go under again”), there’s a childlike innocence and nostalgia to sunny days by the British seaside.
Lead preview single ‘Wake Me Up’ exposed their fresh positive intention back in November, its echoes of Talking Heads’ ‘Once in a Lifetime’, funky-riff and irresistible chorus creating an instant allure. ‘2am’ is Foals at their poppy best, a seemingly upbeat and joyous track that contradicts to lyrics about a “repetitive cycle of destructive behaviour”. ‘Looking High’ is an undoubted mid-point highlight, disclosing Balearic vibes and a euphoric chorus (“Find anothеr way / Any other way / Find another way”) that’ll have you lost in the moment and dreaming of Pina Coladas in the sunshine.
Where the latter track moves them from the beaches of Brighton to Ibiza flirtations, the dance theme is developed over the second half of Life Is Yours. The peak point of this side is ‘The Sound’, its Latin-infused beat and energetic dancefloor riff creating a pulsating penultimate album track.
From the choppy synths of ‘Life Is Yours’, through the West African grooves on ‘Flutter’ to the overtly EDM vibes on closer ‘Wild Green’, Life Is Yours is filled with positivity and summer escapism, all done without a moment’s staleness. The perfect fusion of dancefloor indie and Balearic trance influences that can’t help but win you over by the album’s completion.
That Foals have flung themselves head first in an overwhelming positive sound may be a step too far for some early fans, especially those who enjoyed their heavier and more introspective moments over their previous six albums.
And when compared with their more diverse back-catalogue, the style over substance debate tips firmly in the former, yet you’ll come out of the other side of Life Is Yours fully convinced of their new direction. They may be two band members lighter, but Foals have managed to reinvent themselves again, delivering a consistently fun and memorable record to soundtrack summer 2022.