It seems almost an age ago that Foals dropped their debut album Antidotes, a record we covered not too long ago. In that review I said ‘Foals manage to keep things interesting not only throughout the record but within the songs themselves.’
This same sentiment permeates through Foals fifth studio album Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 1. Foals’ newest record is big. When compared to Antidotes you can see how far the soundscape has developed. Foals work has always been intricate and nuanced but none of their previous albums layer sounds in such an orchestral way like this does. Yannis’ vocals appear vibrantly but yet just another part of the score. Synths take a lead role where they might not have done before. This is exemplified in tracks like “In Degrees”, which has an almost disco funk tonality to it, and to great effect.
Foals (to a degree) manage to achieve what so many bands wish for. They bring more of the same charm that had fans hooked initially, but introduce just enough new to the mix to make things different and interesting. Songs like “Inhaler” on the album Holy Fire did this, and the track “Sunday” does that here. “Sunday” is a triumphantly charming track feels more like a Blur b-side than Foals. If it weren’t for Yannis’ vocals it may be unrecognisable. Yet, after a few listens, who could it be but Foals? And there lies the magic.
It’s worth mentioning that this review may be premature in nature. We after all, being treated to Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 2 in September. Maybe this album will feel more complete then or they may exist as separate entities. Nevertheless there is so much to listen to here, and each listen gives me something new. Everything Will Not Be Lost – Part 1 may not objectively be the best of Foals work, but it’s pretty damn good.7 10
Favourite tracks // In Degrees
I think it’s bold pitching this as the first in a two part project, as if one album couldn’t possibly contain all the bombs being dropped. There’s a statement in this album somewhere, but for the most part it listens like a solid pop rock album with mittens on. Foals are a talented group and I admire their openness to change, but I find it hard to connect with most of what goes on in Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 1.
It’s a solid, often groovy project, but it lacks an edge. The mix is responsible for a lot of this I think. Lead single “Exits” deserves to hit harder than it does, while the arrangements on “Syrup” are tight and funky, but also sound like they’ve been ripped from a dusty old cassette. The highlight of the album is by far and away “Sunday”, a soaring ballad in which frontman Yannis Philippakis’ steals the show. And even that has an inexplicable funk interlude. Foals’ experimentation with synths and funky instrumentals is bold, often promising, but the pieces never quite fall together.
This listens like (part one of) an ambitious project that gets away from itself. Disparate elements are pulled together lovingly, but certainly not seamlessly. Last year Arcade Fire experimented in disco with disastrous results. This feels like a similar, less embarrassing animal. It’s fine. That’s my overall feeling on the record. I don’t fully understand why synthy disco is becoming the chosen language of speaking truth to power. If the trend continues tyranny won’t have much to worry about.6 10
Favourite tracks // Sunday
Foals have developed their sound in the decade since their debut, and they’ve done so by building on the foundations that were laid down by Antidotes. Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 1 has been widely received as a return to form for the band, and there’s certainly a lot to like.
Lead single “Exits” makes for a highlight of the first half of the tracklist and still holds up well within the album. The likes of “White Onions” and “On the Luna” hark back to the band’s earlier material. Meanwhile, “In Degrees” leans into a flavour of electronic, disco beats decorated with a more familiar agitated guitar line across the top. It’s a sound that isn’t dissimilar to more recent output from Arcade Fire which makes for a more varied mix than we’ve seen from previous releases.
With all that said, this first half is one that washes over me with affectlessness. Once it falls into its groove, each track is a racing canter that proceeds to explode with a cacophony of instrumentation and Yannis Philippakis’ vocals belting out across the top. That’s no bad thing in isolation, but by the sixth track, I have to check back with the tracklist to see where I am.
It’s not until “Cafe D’Athens”, which kicks off with an altogether different instrumental and a more delicate vocal, that my interest is piqued once more. Sounding closer to late-era Radiohead, with a hypnotic drum line and a cavernous reverb, it makes for an intriguing turn. Follow that with “Sunday”, an unexpected ballad and stand out track on the tracklist and the latter half pulls this album around to a surprising conclusion.
Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 1 is somewhat of a grower, while I initially felt very little for it, I’ve warmed to a chunk of the tracklist. It’s been a challenge to get excited about the album as a whole, however, and while the tail end does a lot to improve things, it’s not enough to push the record to greater heights. Looking forward, I’m still interested in the form that Part 2 will take though, and I’ll no doubt return to a few choice tracks here.6 10
Favourite tracks // Cafe D’Athens