By: Matt Nistler
One of the great pleasures of working in the music industry is tracking the development of bands. All artists have to get their start somewhere and you never know who will be next to breakout or at what time this will happen. A few years back, I sensed that Barnegat, New Jersey’s For The Foxes were destined for the big-time. Now, I couldn’t be happier to state, the foxes have arrived!
I was first introduced to For The Foxes in 2008, when the band was still unsigned and I wrote their first ever album review. MySpace was all the rage, neon was ubiquitous, “hipster” merely referred to a style of women’s jeans that sat low on the waist, and nearly every band had the same boring synth-saturated sound [yawn]. As soon as I heard For The Foxes’ carefree piano-driven pop ditties, I knew this band was bringing something new and special to an otherwise generic music scene. I recall one of my quotes from that album review stating “For The Foxes play some of the most fun music I’ve heard since The Format’s Dog Problems.” This is a statement I still back today and, yes, Dog Problems remains one of my favorite albums of all-time.
Things sure can change in four years. No longer is the band playing small local shows and independently funding and releasing their records. The foxes, whose line-up now consists of members Nick Dungo (Vocals), Jimmy Brindley (Guitar), Danny Vassallo (Drums), Mikey Ballou (Guitar) and Jonathan Brunner (Bass), are one of the latest signees to indie powerhouse label, Hopeless Records and are releasing their label debut EP, The Revolution, which was recorded with none other than Zack Odom and Kenneth Mount (Mayday Parade, All Time Low, Cartel). Heck, the album even premiered through MTV (apparently they do still promote good music – who knew?).
The Revolution kicks off with “Sinking Like A Stone,” which begins slowly with a few mellow piano notes (à la Death Cab For Cutie) and delicate vocals from main man, Nick Dungo. Don’t let the tranquil opening fool you, however, as the track quickly crescendos into an upbeat pop/rock anthem filled with emotional wails and lyrics exclaiming “love is such a losing game/that we’re afraid to play.”
Next up is the title track and lead single, “The Revolution.” The opening showcases The Format-esque vocals that I originally fell in love with in 2008, but soon progresses into new territory for the band. The meat of the song is less piano-rock and more similar to the sound of today’s pop-punk heavy hitters such as All Time Low, Mayday Parade, or The Dangerous Summer. This may be attributed to Zack and Ken’s influence behind the board or it could be a new sound for the band to better mesh with that of their labelmates at Hopeless Records. Or it might simply be brought on by four years of change and development. Whatever the backstory may be, “The Revolution” is an accessible track, with driving guitars, that is capable of getting kids moving and singing along at shows, and ultimately that is the purpose that a single should serve.
“Kids Too Young” beautifully blends modern rock with a throwback sound. This mix of old and new is a theme that carries over throughout the album and is even showcased in the vintage style of the album artwork. The highlight of the track is the layered vocals from Dungo and female guest vocalist, Cara Salimando. As always, ZK Productions does not disappoint, as the production on this track, and the album as a whole is stellar. That duo can do no wrong.
Thankfully “Kids Too Young” is not the last taste of Salimando’s vocal chops, as she also lends her voice to the next groovy track, “Moonlight Ride.” Again, the track incorporates a variety of musical styles, but the overall integrity of it still fits in perfectly with the Vans Warped Tour roster. Salimando’s guest vocals bring an added dimension of ambient soft/rock, while Dungo’s lyricism brings a retro flair. There is even an African vibe, with a chorus of “Ooohh-aaowohh-oohh-oooawwohhh” chants that are reminiscent of Broadway’s production of The Lion King. I can just as easily picture this song being performed on a remote beach as I can see it at a dimly-lit club. For these reasons, this track, perhaps, may not resonate in today’s music scene as much as the aggressive single, “The Revolution,” however, it is this unique mixture of sounds that makes it one of my standout tracks.
Up next is the emotional ballad, “The River.” While it may not feature guest vocals from M. Shadows and Synyster Gates (excuse the cheesy Good Charlotte/Avenged Sevenfold reference), this track is still worthy of your attention. This song is best enjoyed like a glass of fine wine – take it in slowly and enjoy it in a reflective, peaceful environment. “The River” is stripped-down brilliance. There is no production magic, no hand claps, no guest vocals, not even a “ohh-ohh-ohh” sing-a-long. It is simply a piano-driven tearjerker that showcases Dungo’s wide range of vocals and delicate voice. I’m sure many-a-female fan will have damp eyes and a melted heart after listening to lyrics like “I’m calling home for you/this is the last time/so darling close your eyes/we don’t say goodbye/we just say goodnight.”
After the emotional journey that is “The River,” it would seem that the album would be at a close, as most albums typically wind down with a ballad. This is not the case with For The Foxes, however, as they have one final song to sing, dance, and stomp along with in the form of the final track, “Easy Way.” Who wants to end an album feeling sad and emotional anyways? One element I found noticeably missing from The Revolution that I always enjoyed in previous releases from the band, was the use of horns. Well, I got my wish, as “Easy Way” has horns galore! Make sure you have your dancing shoes on the next time you see “Easy Way” performed live.
Admittedly, The Revolution does struggle at times with its identity (Retro Pop? Soft Rock? Punk?) – it is just an EP after all – yet it is still a fine sampling of all the musical styles For The Foxes can take on. It is also worth nothing that The Revolution could not have arrived at a better time. With the music world currently swept up in the success of Fun.’s latest album, Some Nights, it appears the general public is finally gravitating towards real instrumentation (horns/piano/solid guitar) rather than mundane autotune and synthesizer. While For The Foxes may not reach Fun. status overnight, The Revolution is a solid step in that direction.
On “Easy Way” the band proclaims “we’re having a real good time!” I don’t interpret this as simply a lyric, but rather the band’s mission statement. With a bright future ahead and a proper full-length album already in the works, why shouldn’t these Jersey natives be having a good time? What are you waiting for? Go pick up this album and join the For The Foxes revolution.
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Record Label: Hopeless Records
For Fans Of: Fun., Neon Trees, The Format, Bruno Mars
Recommended Tracks: “Kids Too Young” // “The River” // “Easy Way” //
Purchase: iTunes / ForTheFoxes.com