Foals has had the largest influence on my music, and I have grown up with them very closely. Have you heard Hive Mind?
I first got turned onto Foals by my older brother, who had downloaded Antidotes and Total Life Forever onto our computer. As a novice guitar player it was helpful to see how guitars could be used without chords, and I learned a lot about playing guitar from them. But from here, Foals infected me. They were THE indie band for me. I was obsessed with them.
Initially, I would not love every song but after many months and through maturing from the ages of 11 - 15 I slowly got turned onto every song. By the end of year 9 I had the (then-released) albums memorized. By the end of year 10 I had all the B-sides memorized. By the end of year 11 I was obsessed with The Edmund Fitzgerald, the band Yannis and Jack were in before Foals. Foals seemed to literally permeate through my every thought, and that was thoroughly reflected through my music. I think everyone has an artist/band where you can’t hate a single one of their songs - this is my artist/band.
By my final year of high school I had realised how much Foals I was listening to and had to back away… I had new obsessions by then (Everything Everything) that were influencing Orange Orange. But Foals always stuck around, and they came back to me for a bit when ENSWBL Pt. 1 & 2 released, like an old friend.
Nowadays, I don't love them as much as I used to, but they are nice to come back to, definitely. I had the pleasure of seeing Foals perform live at Margaret Court Arena back in July 2019 and it provided lovely closure after years of yearning to see them live. The magic of seeing this band play the songs that I listened to most in the 2010’s was sadly subdued from being far too familiar with their live set from watching their videos on YouTube, but it was quite an amazing experience regardless. I actually sat outside Festival Hall (back when it was Festival Hall) when I was 16 just to hear them play, as I wasn't old enough to go or smart enough to sneak in. It was worth it to hear Walter go “BUH-BA-DAH BUH-BA-DA” in Two Steps Twice before he left the band.
I’m gonna try and list 10 of what I feel are their best songs right now. I’m not sure if these are my favourites, or what I feel are their best pieces of work, or if these songs just have current merit to me (or society), but here’s a list anyway. I’m also not gonna list B-sides, as to not be too obscure for people.
Anyway, here we go!
#10: The French Open
The first track from their first album. The iconic live intro. The dancing guitars, the large varieties of beats, the seamlessly-fitting keyboard part. This is how to introduce your energetic first-album.
Yannis’s voice works pretty well for this song. I don’t really know what he’s singing about, or why he’s singing about it, but he makes me pretty darn excited with whatever he’s singing about. The real stand-out in this track is the arrangement, and you can’t really deny that.
It’s hard not to talk about groove with this song and I think this perfectly merges Foals’s math-rock past with whatever they were trying to be (still unsure what they are now…).
I love the variety that this song had in its short run live. Jack’s drumming seemed to always be changing and doing very interesting things, and not just a straight dance beat for the verses. You can definitely hear that amazing beat in this performance from La Route du Rock around 1:20. I also love the weirdo whacko last section of this song that just wants to be very loud and energetic, I should make songs end like this more.
I don’t really have a lot to say about this song because it’s just very solid. I love the complete rock-out bit at the end and how manic that is, like if you listen to what everyone is playing individually it should just make an absolute mess, it’s great.
Inhaler. I remember being in my first year of high school when this song came out in late 2012! I listened to it once and did not really engage with it again until the start of 2014, where I have a very clear memory of listening to Inhaler on repeat while playing Goat Simulator.
This was the first time Foals really tried incorporating stronger rock elements into their music, and...it’s great. I feel like this song is slept on nowadays because of the sheer amount of rock songs Foals has put out since, and only one other is better, the rest are nowhere near as good (looking at you “keep-on-running The Runner”). But back in the day when there were only 3 albums out, Inhaler was one of the best songs, and one of the highlights of their live set. The verse riff is so iconic and sleek, especially live.
The huge riff at the chorus is so bold, and mashed with the yelling makes an iconic chorus that probably warmed up the winter of 2012/13 in England.
I feel that this song is held in higher regard because the lyrics are not ridiculous. Dare I say, they're iconic. The prechorus and chorus are strong and while the verse lyrics may not be very deep, the melody keeps it interesting and engaging.
My first band Plaza-Trg played this song live at a gig in 2015 but because none of us could sing back then it was not very good. But that kinda heightened the iconicness of the song for us all. Johnsen’s band Hollow December also played this song live circa 2016-17 and they made it work pretty well!
I’ll also say the music video for this song is pretty good. That might be a hot take because it might just be edgy and have young people with strange haircuts doing weird dances but I think it’s effective and energetic.
Now this, this is iconic.
I love how the lyrics are not important in this song. In my opinion Foals are amazing at matching a mood with a sound, but their biggest pratfall that has been exposed since What Went Down released was their lyrics. They have created some of the best lyrics I have heard and have also used the laziest placeholder rhymes and lyrics for other songs. I know lyric quality is subjective but this thought just stuck with me after the first listen, and still today after hearing the songs so many times. This is why Providence is gold. The mood is forefront. The lyrics are just another improvisation tool. Every time Yannis sings this song live it's different. The vibe is just “I'm an animal just like you” and guitars, and ⅞ beat does all the talking. I love that it’s all about being in 7/8 and the groove.
This is another song that goes off in a live setting, is it so hard to see why? Being instrumental for half the song really helps. It’s so cool. I don’t have many words about this song because it’s just cool, okay?
I'm also fairly sure that they got the drop for this song from an unreleased song from the TLF days called O-Funk, and just made it fit Providence more. I don’t think this is confirmed but I swear it’s true.
I also think they may have standardised this song for live performance more, which is a bit of a bummer but understandable. Just… watch or listen to some live performances from the Holy Fire tour, they are amazing. Yannis goes stage and crowd exploring nowadays and it’s just great.
#7: Dreaming Of
The only song in the top 10 that is from Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Pt. 2. While the rest of the songs on the albums do not appeal to me this one is the catchiest song to me, undoubtedly. The guitars made me feel like I was free of this Arctic Monkeys AM hellish landscape of rock guitars and crazy splashy ride cymbals and back into interesting guitar parts that interlocked with other melodies. If I was younger and more impressionable this would be my favourite song on this list.
I don't know why I love this one so much! I really don't! It’s just tight, and I feel so much energy in this song. The chorus beat being in half time is a simple but creative way to not keep the same beat for the whole song. A creative pop track is probably how I'd classify this song, and it really nails that. If I compared this with other non-single pop tracks on recent Foals albums, what do you have… Lonely Hunter? Out of the Woods? Not much competition there.
I really love the middle eight section of this song. I may have taken slight inspiration for an upcoming Orange Orange track from this section, but c’mon, it's great.
I’m also pleasantly surprised to say the vocals are super impressive on this track, and if you know Foals you know vocals aren't always the most impressive part of a song. The melody is super tight and catchy throughout the ENTIRE SONG. Thank goodness, finally. The production is also super slick and everything fits together in a believable way.
It really makes me sad that this song does not get the same attention as The Runner or Black Bull or Wash Off or Like Lightning because, to me, it is far more interesting and has longevity. That being said, I really hope I like this song in a few years, and don't just look like a pop FOOL.
#6: Olympic Airways
This was probably the first Foals song where I thought that this band was the real deal - An instant classic indie tune. I would’ve been around 10 or 11 when I first heard this song and the chorus just reeled me in.
Probably the song with the most longevity. Olympic Airways is one of the best songs to play on guitar, and one of the most iconic. I have friends who still play Jimmy’s guitar part with the harmonics and everything during practises. You’re gonna hear this a lot but I’m very glad Foals still play this song live. The lyrics are fine for what they are and they progress through the song with some care (Sun’s up -> Sun down).
The bassline for this song is also really, really good. It’s pretty simple and doesn’t deviate from the same rhythm too much, but it’s hypnotic.
Olympic Airways has a great, memorable chorus, a wonderful duet part after the second chorus, and a brilliant use of the tremolo duet they established in Cassius. Yannis does play a different part live to what he played on the recording, and I do like it marginally less, but that’s okay. I really love that they STILL play this song as a mainstay for their live set. I don’t think it’s ever really gone away - 14 years later, and it still sounds good! If that doesn’t make it a strong song, then I don’t know. They could play a lot of other songs from Antidotes but they choose this song instead, that must mean something.
One of the best and funniest Foals performances is a performance of Olympic Airways in 2007, and I’m fairly sure they’re supporting Bloc Party. Yannis does a lovely intro and drops the microphone at 2:17 so comically. I really enjoy the instrumental part that proceeds it and Bevan’s tight drumming covers it up super well. I dunno I just think this performance is hilarious and good.
To prevent this blog post being way too long I will do 5 - 1 another time, so stay tuned.
I’m glad to announce that the “What Did the Munkee Say Now” Launch SOLD OUT. Thank you all so much!!! I am really excited and keen to play on Thursday, and I’ll see everyone who bought a ticket there. If you didn’t - grab one at the door, we’ll be selling a few.
Until next week - R