Foals — Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost (Part 1) ANALYSIS & REVIEW
For a sound that seemingly has little pizzazz or influence on its own, this album goes to show how important it is to focus on fundamental songwriting so that big picture ideas and overall atmospheres can be justified. In feeling out this work’s surface perception, it comes across as quite a simplistic modern rock sound doused with reverb effects and meant to give a live audience some feeling of power through loud dynamics and slow, soaring anthems. Sure, it may not be the most thought-provoking premise for someone who’s willing to listen to and feel anything, but within these confines, this music finds success. The album took a little while to warm up and have its positives truly gel, but they eventually did, making this an enjoyable and worthwhile listen.
This band was able to set up an atmosphere where the thin, loud instrumentation and minimal decoration was fully warranted, as the core of the music wasn’t the sound itself, but instead the presentation of unique harmonic ideas. In that way, the timbre truly succeeded in being as blatant and obvious as it was, since its role was to give a welcoming and engaging space for the all-important harmonic foundation, which was rightfully highlighted. Harmony was this album’s biggest overall strength; while mostly sticking with repetitive four chord progressions, the four chords were generally riveting with cool accents and syncopated presentation.
The iv-i-bIII loop in “White Onions” was neat in that it started off phrases with subdominant-tonic movement rather than just tonic to whatever, and it also used a nice bVII substitution in the chorus. That’s an example of a track that was really held up by its harmony alone, and nothing else really broke out of itself to click with it. Several songs later on were able to gel better with drama coming from other musical layers, too. The song “Syrups” had a super juicy, energetic, pedal harmony bassline that matched well soaring high register vocal melody as well as the guitar that doubled it halfway through. The song “Sunday” was my favorite track, also being perhaps the most dynamically varied and structurally simple, using the rare minor v in a I-v-bVII-IV pattern that was paired with great fluid, moving vocal lines that transformed into being the rhythmic drive and way in which the song built energy.
“Sunday” and “Exits” were the only two songs to me that had melodic lines to really connect with the harmonic pattern and direction of energy, while most other melodies were not terribly consequential. The weakness of the album is in the inability of most melodic lines to be directive themselves, as they seemed to have been done the vocal comfortability in mind over what the surrounding musical substance actually was. Comfortability is not a terrible thing to have, though, at least when risks are being taken in the other songwriting aspects. This just makes the cut of being a solid album for me. The group really had some knockout progressions that turned into nice jams. I’d give this a thin blanket recommendation to anyone, no matter who you are. I’ll be watching out for Part 2.