New Music Tuesday: FOALS • Darwin Deez • Veronica Falls • The Stone Foxes • The Little Ones • K-X-P

FOALS - Holy Fire

Every Tuesday, we focus on new music releases by naming our top tracks, album highlights, lowlights and important takeaways for select albums.

FOALSHoly Fire

3.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“Milk and Black Spiders”

Album Highlights: Any fan of FOALS knows that the one thing to expect when they a release a new album is not to expect anything. Each release seems to have the Oxford five-piece charting new waters and hitting the shuffle button on their sound with intricate, emotional and layered tracks. The band’s newest release Holy Fire is no different, as from the start, it takes the listener on a journey characterized by haunting vocals, staccato guitar loops and heavy breakdowns over the course of 11 tracks.

Holy Fire kicks off with the instrumental “Prelude”, which gives way to “Inhaler”, a heavier, more driving rock song than we are used to from the band. The song was released as a teaser in late 2012 and definitely stands out as one of the marquee tracks on the album. “Inhaler” is sure to be a crowd-pleaser during both club and festival sets as it exudes energy. The album then backs off a bit, easing up on the throttle to bring us tracks closer to what fans became accustomed to in Antidotes and Total Life Forever. Standout tracks and personal favorites are “Milk and Black Spiders” and “Providence”, a track closer to “Inhaler” than any of the others. Both songs showcase both the frenetic, yet intricate sound fans have become accustom to with emerging sounds and styles the band seems to be developing.

Album Lowlight: The last two songs of the album are much more subdued than all the previous tracks, perhaps to keep the feel of a cohesive arc consistent through the album, but the abrupt drop-off in tempo and energy after a heavy, complex song like “Providence” takes away a bit from the album. The dreamy, mellow end may eventually grow on me, but at first listen, it left me wanting more.

Takeaway: Overall, Holy Fire is a great album and keeps FOALS in the forefront of bands that are willing to experiment and push the envelope with their sound and what listeners have come to expect from them. Having seen them in the past, I’m most interested to see how this new selection of songs will translate into one of their always entertaining live shows, especially songs like “Providence”. FOALS have delivered again by breaking expectations and crafting thoughtful, complex and meaningful songs that keep the listener guessing what comes next.

~Sean Little

Darwin DeezSongs for Imaginative People

3.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“(800) HUMAN”
“Free (The Editorial Me)”

Album Highlights: Darwin Deez specializes in glitch-pop that is reminiscent of The Postal Service, but his themes of humanity versus technology juxtapose with purpose throughout Songs for Imaginative People. The first track “(800) HUMAN” sets this tone, and Deez’s relate-able lyrics and voice contrast well with the digitized sounds that dominate the instrumentals.

Album Lowlight: There are moments that are too “spoken word,” even though the back and forth between talking and singing is Deez’s central style. A good example of this is with the track “No Love,” which is filled with spoken word lyrics.

Takeaway: Darwin Deez is at his best when emulating The Postal Service with quick tempo changes and Nintendo glitch sounds. The record gets better with each listen, and it ends in a particularly strong fashion – “Redshift” and “Free (The Editorial Me)” are two of the best tracks. This is a cohesive LP that deserves at least a couple spins.

~Mike Frash

Veronica FallsWaiting for Something to Happen

4-BamsTop Tracks:
“If You Still Want Me”
“My Heart Beats”
“Falling Out”

Album Highlights: “If You Still Want Me” is duet perfection. Roxanne Clifford and James Hoare’s vocal are beautifully cohesive and complimentary. The track showcases their individual command over their range and pitch. The track signifies near flawless ingenuity as pop composers.

Album Lowlight: “Everybody’s Changing” lacks creativity lyrically and musically. It sounds as though it could have been a late addition or suggestion from the record company for a radio friendly single. The rest of the album is filled with tracks exemplifying the band’s grasp of their genre and songwriting skills. This track compromises both.

Takeaway: “Shooting Star” is like an audible heroin trip. It’s both the least enigmatic and most encompassing track on the album. Reminiscent of 1960’s art rock, the simplicity of the song’s structure and melancholy drone is entrancing and difficult to not be consumed by.

~Molly Kish

The Stone FoxesSmall Fires

4-BamsTop Tracks:
“Ulysses Jones”
“Small Fires”
“Jump in the Water”

Album Highlights:In the wake of Southern-tinged blues rock making its way to the masses via The Black Keys and Alabama Shakes, hTe Stone Foxes have sculpted the West’s answer to this infectious formula. Small Fires starts with a double dose of swamp-drenched soul rock before moving into a more straight ahead indie blues rock. This album was produced by Doug Boehm, best known for his work with Dr. Dog and Girls, and those groups’ sonic sentiment is noticeable. Similar to Howlin Rain’s Russian Winds, one can really hear the power and energy these guys bring to the table, as well as to the live stage.

Album Lowlight: Multipart harmonies would give a greater depth to some of the songs. We can expect more bands trying this sound out based upon pop music’s current fondness for the Southern blues rock sound. Luckily, these guys have been working at it for near a decade. Also, the track order doesn’t do the varying sounds much justice.

Takeaway: Fans of Dr. Dog and similar acts will love this album, hands down. Furthermore, Small Fires is a truly great slice of rock and roll that is very palatable and enjoyable. These guys have been going hard on the road for many years, and this album reflects their live show, similar to the rise of My Morning Jacket and their breakthrough album Z. In the coming months, these lads will headline — yes, HEADLINE — The Fillmore in San Francisco, a clear sign that this group is on the up and up.

~Kevin Quandt


The Stone Foxes perform for free at Amoeba San Francisco on Tuesday, February 12th at 6 p.m. PT. They will also perform for free at The New Parish on Wednesday, February 13th.

The Little OnesThe Dawn Sang Along

4-BamsTop Tracks:
“Super Bros.”
“Catch the Movement”
“Boy on Wheels”

Album Highlights: Southern California pop rock band The Little Ones return with its first full-length since Morning Tide, delivering more sun-soaked, 60’s nostalgic pop rock that brightens up the day. The Little Ones have long garnered comparisons to The Beach Boys, and with The Dawn Sang Along it becomes apparent as layered, harmonic vocals combine with horns, tambourines, and other assorted instruments throughout the album. These are hallmarks that defined the Beach Boys’ (and other 60s pop acts) sound and is borrowed by The Little Ones. Their second full-length straddles the line between 60s and more modern pop, delivering the perfect antidote to a rainy day.

Standout tracks are “Super Bros.”, “Catch the Movement” and “Boy on Wheels.” “Boy on Wheels” is my personal favorite, as the sound seems much more unique to the band and its style with varying effects, vocals and rhythms that build the song up and left me tapping my foot to the beat long after the song had ended.

Album Lowlight: There wasn’t a low point in the album for me with any one song, but I wanted to see the band have a few more songs like “Boy on Wheels” or “Catch the Movement,” as they showcased the band’s own voice and unique sound without borrowing too much inspiration from 60’s pop bands.

Takeaway: I really enjoyed this album, and I’m not one that generally enjoys pop. It’s sunny and catchy the whole way through and shows a distinct style and maturity gained since their last full-length. If you are in need of some audio sunshine, pick up The Dawn Sang Along and give it a listen. You’ll be transported to a brighter, sunnier place inside the comfort of your headphones.

~Sean Little


3.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“Magnetic North”
“Easy (Infinity Waits)”
“Flags and Crosses”

Album highlights, album lowlight and takeaway: K-X-P’s new album II is an interstellar adventure of Kubrickian proportions.

Imagine you are being propelled into space on an interplanetary rocket (“Melody”). Your spacecraft is flung from the gravitational pull of one planet to the next, like a monkey swinging from vine to vine (“Staring at the Moon”). You encounter eight-bit asteroids (“Magnetic North”) and blast them with your particle disintegrators, clearing a path into deep space.

As you drift deeper into space (“Ekmviv”) you lose track of time and space, and all perception becomes distorted (“In the Valley”). Suspended in space, surrounded by a mechanical drone, your senses rejuvenate just as your craft comes to rest on a mysterious planet (“Tears [Extended Interlude]”).

As you regain consciousness and perception of your surroundings, you realize your spacecraft is surrounded by large amorphous aliens. Starring at this strange earthling, the aliens wonder what to do with you and deliberate to decide your fate. During this deliberation a deus ex machina occurs when a massive wave of electromagnetic radiation strikes the planet’s atmosphere, triggering a paralyzing vibration (“Flags and Crosses”). This vibration is so intense your spacecraft is jolted free from the clutches of the planet’s gravitational pull, and you float skyward, uncontested by the enfeebled aliens (“Reel Ghosts”).

You are able to gain control of the ship and navigate through the electromagnetic assault, reaching safety in the quiescent cushion of space (“Easy [Infinity Waits]”).

You are home free. You light a cigarette and think about what just happened as you cruise back to the friendly confines of Earth (“Dark Satellite”).

~Kevin Raos

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