It’s a good time to be a fan of pop auteurs with a dark, epic streak. With a near surplus of vibrant artists with equal talents for moodiness and melody, there’s such diversity that you can pick and choose by emphasis. For extra soulful bombast, try Florence and the Machine; for arty atmospherics, Bat for Lashes has you covered; for hooks of mechanical precision, there’s Charli XCX; and so on.
It may be too early to say what qualities will ultimately distinguish 22-year-old Louisa Rose Allen, otherwise known as Foxes, within the loose parameters of contemporary goth-pop. Maybe it’s a non-issue, because, even absent any single sound bite ready feature to highlight as “her thing”, the Warrior EP places her squarely among the best of her ilk. With a less showy voice than, say, Florence Welch and conceptual aims far more modest than, say, Natasha Khan, Allen has the heart of a young contender and the songwriting chops to justify her verve.
To borrow from a much earlier epic-minded pop artist, Allen’s not just shooting at the walls of heartache (bang bang) on the majestic title tune. She’s “breakin’ the walls down” and will fight, fight, fight those creeping monsters under your bed. “White Coats” is even better, its palpable fear of institutionalization underlined by a bassline that’s felt more than heard and an eerie stutter of a vocal hook. The five-song EP is filled out by the ominous, pretty paranoia of “In Her Arms”, a live, acoustic version of the title song, and an impressively mountainous demo of “Let Go for Tonight” that makes you wonder what the finished version might sound like. Allen released a pretty good single, “Youth”/”Home”, earlier this year, but Warrior feels more like her proper introduction: a powerful, well-rounded set grounded in strength, fear, jealousy, and fleeting joy.