it didn’t take long for foxing to stand apart from their peers. the st. louis quintet’s debut album the albatross meted out blasts of post-hardcore agitation that were occasionally quelled by beautiful instrumental passages, and these arrangements progressed with such fluidity that it was hard not to admire this young band’s intimate capacity to tug at heartstrings on a multitude of levels.
a reissue of the album last year by triple crown records helped propel foxing to even more widespread acclaim; they spent the twilight of 2014 touring with brand new and modern baseball before beginning to flesh out ideas for their sophomore effort. further writing sessions in rural vermont earlier this year yielded the songs that would eventually populate dealer, an incredible, deeply personal follow-up that steadfastly holds court in the bowels of self-reflection.
while the albatross was firmly rooted in release, dealer finds solace in tension – and retention. the religious imagery that defines lead single “the magdalene” is vivid in description and stark in consequence, its biblical undertones permeating in quick succession through the final third of the album. this appropriately culminates with finale “three on a match,” a poignant nod to an old wartime superstition compounded by a heartbreaking rejection of repentance.
vocalist conor murphy and bassist josh coll share songwriting duties, and this fruitful partnership has pushed foxing into a new lyrical category on dealer. the poetry is dense and less direct, but it notably doesn’t force itself into the spotlight; murphy’s falsetto (more confident and technically capable than on the albatross) smears certain words into a song’s canvas (see especially: “eiffel”) while enunciating others for maximum effect, and he’ll often leave the conversation altogether to give his bandmates ample time to musically react to the emotions he’s explored.
the centerpiece – and masterpiece – of dealer is “indica,” an intensely somber account penned by coll riddled with regret and remorse. its lyrics leave behind much of the duo’s detailed imagery in favor of a bleak reality. the central couplet “and if so, do i haunt their parents’ dreams? / and in so, am i summarized by sounds of young lung screams” weighs heavily on the album and helps advance the elegy for tragic civilian casualties in afghanistan, but “indica” is also a elegy for a part of coll himself, who concedes that his post-traumatic stress may be the only consolation for the parents of dead children as a sparse funeral march plays in the background.
the noticeably darker subject matter is underscored by vast, often desolate soundscapes. the members of foxing haven’t deviated far from their standard palette: guitar, bass, and drums are still augmented by murphy’s trumpet and piano contributions, and fleshed-out orchestral arrangements play a significant role in the overall tone of dealer, but many timbral roles have shifted. guitarists ricky sampson and eric hudson largely leave harmony behind to explore the stratosphere, relegating chordal support to piano and strings or preferring to outline the progressions via arpeggio. the duo also spend more time crafting atmospheric pads that prop up secondary melodic instruments, such as the trumpet-saxophone duet on “laundered” and the eerie reed organ tones that course through “indica” and “redwoods.”
this rearrangement of sonic architecture allows foxing to convincingly clear the ceiling of lyrically-driven music and venture far into the realm of extended instrumentals. both “winding cloth” and “coda” function not as mere interludes but as direct, fully-developed reactions to their antecedents. the former molds a fleeting piano motif at the end of “indica” into a sprawling cinematic endeavor that’s every bit as devastating as its predecessor’s poetry, while the latter’s barren landscape quickly dampens the catharsis of “eiffel,” returning dealer to a more downtrodden tone for its true finale.
dealer resonates deeply. a magnum opus of this caliber, with no discernible weak points, is rarely achieved by a band, let alone this early in their career. foxing’s bluntly finite, unofficial motto means they could hang it up at any moment; it would be a shame if dealer winds up being their swan song, but goddamn, what a legacy they’ll leave behind.