Today, we launch our new in-the-round singles review section with the new video from British band Foals, who are due to release their new album What Went Down on August 28th.
PopMatters is launching this new section called Singles Going Steady where we will cover new songs and videos using an in-the-round format with multiple writers from the PM staff. Readers are encouraged to contribute their own review and rating in the comments section.
As the second single from their upcoming fourth album, What Went Down, "Mountain at My Gates" successfully makes a case for Foals' superior versatility as a rock band. The track finds Foals revisiting the melodic arena pop that the band shifted to with 2010's Total Life Forever in lieu of the vicious, rugged art rock that defined their early music, peppered their last album Holy Fire, and resurfaced with previous single "What Went Down". Soft palm-muted guitar lines crawl over danceable rock drums and throbbing bass that build to a song-ending climax -- a familiar tactic for a band that seems more arena oriented with each passing release. The song is noticeably cleaner than many of Holy Fire's abstract pop excursions, too, but not yet sterile; Foals can still charm as hard as they can punch. -- COLIN FITZGERALD [7/10]
If nothing else, this pleasant indie rock tune is indicative of just how low the bar is for making anything interesting in the indie rock realm at the present. Because the guitar playing is tasty -- the Gibsons they are playing in the video are clearly giving them a lot to work with -- and frontman Yannis Philippakis doesn't sound like he's trying to ape Thom Yorke (or some other variation on a falsetto), "Mountain at My Gates" stands out as a pretty good rock tune -- but not much else. In another time, perhaps, when sonic variegation is an actual feature of indie, "Mountain at My Gates" might have sounded a lot better. As it stands now, it's merely a decent song that avoids the worst pratfalls of guitar-centric indie circa 2015. The only serious downfall of "Mountain at My Gates" is its strange, "GoPro Spherical" video, filmed as such ostensibly to give a panoramic view, even though it ends up giving off the effect of a bad green screen backing. -- BRICE EZELL [6/10]
Holy SMOKES, that music video is something else! Luckily, the song is pretty good, too. It feels significantly more experimental and airy in terms of lyricism when compared to Foal's previous musical exploits, which doesn’t fall lopsidedly on this lover of the furtive. All in all, it’s a steady rock number to carry enthusiasts through the summer. Where it reinvents, it does in the most interesting of ways (read: that video). -- JONATHAN FRAHM [7/10]
This video is an eye-popper. Just gorgeous. As for the song, I like its effervescence a lot, and I love the sporadic hugeness, especially during the coda, where the song truly lets loose. Dynamically it's a wonderful payoff, but I'm getting awfully tired of indie rock constantly relying on that light "tropical" sound we hear during the first half. Let's call it "post-Vampire Weekend". Good lord, what a blight that band has created on the indie rock landscape. Anyway, that tactic castrates the sound of this song's verses when I'd rather the band built up to that glorious climax less annoyingly. -- ADRIEN BEGRAND [5/10]
The virtual reality technology in the video is incredible. Unfortunately whichever way I spun the camera I could still see and hear the band. Isn't this just casually terrible? It's so perfectly trite and edgeless. I imagine this is currently playing on loop in every Urban Outfitters across the globe. And the lyrics? Hey, guess what? The mountain's a metaphor. Yeah, really! Imagine that! And I don't want to give away the ending, but he climbs it. Yeah. He climbs it. Inspired. What a hero. Good grief. PAUL DUFFUS [3/10]
The second single from the upcoming fourth album by Foals is spacey indie-rock with a powerful rhythm section and a strong vocal by Yannis Philippakis. “Mountain at My Gates” builds to a sonic crescendo during its finale that’s impressive, but not quite as unhinged as it could be. Still, it’s a strong piece of work by a band that seems to be growing more confident as it matures. -- CHRIS GERARD [8/10]
The character who narrates this song does a good job of capturing what it is like to see something familiar and have it seem strange by looking at it closer. As Donovan famously sang, "First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is." Open your eyes and ears to see what you have not seen or heard right in front of you--or just drive your car without brakes -- whatever it takes to make one feel alive. The music propels the listener to pay attention by constantly moving and shifting with a strong beat. The emotional vocals add weight to what is being sung. Life is a struggle. -- STEVE HOROWITZ [8/10]