By Nick Piccinino
[Photo Credit: By Theo R. Welling [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons]
At first glance, the title of Foxing’s third studio album “Nearer My God” sounds like it would make for a peaceful, intimate record full of self-reflection and devotion. While everything mentioned rings true, the St. Louis band’s songs are injected with heavy themes of regret, sorrow and resounding triumph.
The first track on the record “Grand Paradise” opens with sparse percussion, piano and guitar lead as guitarist and vocalist, Connor Murphy, sings in a falsetto, “I can be romantic / When I’m starving for sleep / When I try but I can’t seem / To remember anything.” Although the instrumentation is laid back, there’s an underlying tenseness in between vocal lines that eventually comes to a head with roaring guitar and Murphy’s powerful delivery, “I’m shock collared at the gates of heaven.” In an interview with Noisey, Murphy attributes the stark metaphor to his Catholic upbringing. In the interview he states, “... when it comes to telling a scary story, I think the biggest influence I have is that stuff, the Bible, because it’s the scariest book in the world to me.”
The album’s title track “Nearer My God” is another stand-alone track. Borrowing its name from the traditional Christian hymn “Nearer My God to Thee” the song opens with a desperate, yet boldly confident statement, “I want it all.” The lyrics soar over top of an ever building guitar line. Murphy continues, “‘Cause I’d sell my soul / To be America’s pool boy / The crown centerfold.” This is an age where music has become instantly streamable and digital artists are able to share their work online in the matter of seconds. However, the iconic stereotype of a traditional rockstar has become virtually obsolete and almost a parody of itself in 2018. Flamboyant guitar solos and the excessive lifestyle of rock musicians have been largely replaced by introspection and subtlety layered songs in today’s musical climate. The track finds the band questioning their own validity in a sense — wondering where they fit into the grand scheme of life.
One of the crown jewels of the album “Five Cups” clocks in at just over nine minutes. Dreamy acoustic guitar and weary vocals retell nostalgic flashbacks. Religious imagery such as crucifixes and saints are contrasted with the image of a hallucinated friend in an empty parking lot. The song shows a band disillusioned with reality and seeking to demystify the metaphysical.
“Nearer My God” is also a major departure sonically from the band’s past two albums, “Dealer” released in 2015 and “The Albatross” released in 2014. The instrumentation is layered and complex and the album’s production is pristine thanks to ex-Death Cab for Cutie member and producer, Chris Walla.
“Nearer My God” is both a vulnerable and powerful album that truly realizes Foxing’s potential as musicians and songwriters.
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