Foals - "Mountain at My Gates" (Singles Going Steady)

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]





The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.