Thursday 15 May 2014

Foxes - Glorious

Foxes debut has been a long time coming.  Though the Southampton singer (a.k.a Louisa Rose Allen) hit the mainstream on Zedd’s Clarity in 2013, that track was actually originally released in 2012, as were her own singles Echo, Youth and her ‘Warrior’ EP.  ‘Glorious’ comes off the back of two recent singles, Holding Onto Heaven and Let Go For Tonight – all of which are included here, resulting in a very solid pop effort.

Perhaps even too solid.  To an extent ‘Glorious’ is pop 101, rarely deviating from the pop rulebook.  There’s the breakthrough hit (Youth) with its dark synths and euphoric chorus; the piano-led power pop single (Let Go For Tonight); the bubbling, Goldfrapp-esque slice of weird electro (White Coats); the soaring, epic power ballad (Glorious); the woozy youthful anthem (Shaking Heads); the collaboration (Clarity – here in live form).

Aesthetically speaking ‘Glorious’ does tick a lot of boxes, incorporating quirky electro-pop with soul, dance and light dubstep.  Yet this sort of cynical view does the album a disservice.  For starters, although each track is produced for maximum epic impact with soaring strings and pounding beats, it never overpowers Allen’s vocals that remain pleasantly delicate and vulnerable throughout, with enough strength for some truly emotive moments without the need for vocal gymnastics.  Tracks like Let Go For Tonight and Glorious, for instance, allow her to spread her vocal wings, whilst her live version of Clarity provides a sense of fragility that’s missing from the original.  The writing is also full of pop hooks, leading to an album that is absolutely devoid of bad tracks or filler – choosing a favourite is an impossible task.

And don’t let the pink cover fool you – Foxes’ output is far from bubblegum.  Citing the likes of Kate Bush, Björk and Bat for Lashes as major influences, Allen’s sound has a twist of welcome ethereal darkness.  “And if the men in white coats are coming I know you’ll still be there for me” she sings on the chorus of White Coats amongst wordless reversed vocal samples and ominous piano, whilst on the atmospheric Night Glo a steady beat shatters in the distance supporting her wandering vocal – it’s straight out of Natasha Khan’s book.  And on Shaking Heads the youthful lyrics (“we are young, we’re foolish tonight”) are supported by fragmented synth lines and layered percussion, the production elevating it from the usual pop fare.

It’s a crowded market for female pop vocalists but Foxes do just enough to stand out from the pack.  This is an album that flirts with risk-taking rather than offering a truly original output, but under Allen’s vocals ‘Glorious’ is coherent and consistently strong – one of the best pop albums of the year so far.


Gizzle’s Choice:
* Youth
* Night Glo
* Shaking Heads

Listen: ‘Glorious’ is available now.