Hello! Today we continue my list of favourite Foals songs.
Again, 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, I just really want to talk about Foals to someone.
Okay here we go!
#5: Spanish Sahara
Some may be surprised that this is only number 5. I originally had this song higher because it felt right to hold this song in high regard because it is so emotive and impactful compared to their other songs, plus the cultural impact of this song in other media. Releasing a song like Spanish Sahara as your first single after your high-octane debut indie-math-dance-rock album was gutsy as hell, and it paid off for Foals.
There is no doubt that Spanish Sahara is one of their best songs. There isn’t really another song that really nails a four-minute build as well as this song. Youth by Daughter? Nah, Spanish Sahara.
Everything sounds really perfect on this song. The guitar is superb, the bass is superb, Edwin’s part gets an S-Rank from me, and I have never been more on-board with a solo in my life. The drums are refined, which is a huge departure from the raucous sound of Antidotes, and it works incredibly well here.
A small detail I especially love is the hushed “ahhhs” in the second chorus, mixed in so subtly that I did not notice it for years. Spanish Sahara live is a highlight of a Foals set, deviating from the intense energy to calmly and emotively build. They usually pair this song with Providence, which is nonstop action, and allow audiences to rest but emotively build for a solid 4-minutes before they are permitted to jump.
But damn… after those 4 minutes are up, it gets really emotional. I can’t really explain it in words but it’s just so tight and it works so well. If you still haven’t listened to this song, just do it now, please, and it will all make sense. Spanish Sahara also has the best outro for a Foals song, it makes me feel things. It’s way better than the outros on ENSWBL Pt. 1, hated those.
I feel the only reason that this song is not #2 is from fatigue from listening to it so much, and lack of an emotive throughline with the song. Spanish Sahara is just a really solid song, like the No Reptiles of Foals, and it is probably one of theirs best songs (or THE best song). But damn, I’d feel pretty bad to not include some other songs higher than it if I did put it up higher.
One of my favourite pieces of trivia is that song was #98 in Triple J’s Hottest 100 for 2010. Wouldn’t it be so funny for people at Triple J parties just to kinda be hanging around in silence for like 4 minutes at the beginning of the party? I think that’s really funny, I dunno.
There's a lot of good Spanish Sahara live performances, pretty much all of them are good. I do think the Reading 2010 one is pretty special though. The crowd loves it.
#4: Blue Blood
The opening track on Total Life Forever. I used to hate this song but then I matured. I will admit I got the lengthy intro and similarly lengthy outtro put me off this song when I first heard it when I was younger. I just wanted more immediately catchy music, and this wasn't immediately catchy!! But when I came to realise that these elements help set it apart from the other songs on the album I can to really love this song.
There are so many elements in this song that are just so catchy. When the bassline comes in with the beat it’s just remarkable, and the guitars bounce off each other beautifully here. I should also mention the riff but that’s pretty self-explanatory for why it is great.
Yannis also plays the hardest guitar part to play and sing simultaneously around 3:20. It’s kind of amazing and I think everyone should be amazed that he pulls it off live with remarkable success. I think this is Yannis’s best guitar part he has written, and Jimmy’s part is very thoughtful too, especially around 3:20.
I do think the best part of the song is the structure and how it is not really anything conventional for an indie-pop single and just bookended by two sparcer sections.
Another point that I really appreciate is that it’s unexpectedly very emotive and heartfelt, especially coming from Antidotes, and it’s definitely one of Yannis’s strongest songs lyrically.
This song has a special place in my heart because it was one of my best busking songs when I was growing up, and I lend that to the great vocal melody, the arrangement and the lyrics. I used to play this and Late Night on every busking set that I did.
I was also lucky enough to hear this song live when I sat outside Festival Hall (RIP) when I was 16 back in 2016. It was epic.
This live video at Live de Semaine kills it, it's so emotive. Otherwise I also really enjoy it when they played at the Paradiso at around 7:30.
#3: Black Gold
Black Gold is that moment where Total Life Forever feels like it has stopped making its grand intro to reel you in and started injecting interesting longform song straight into you to create a longer lasting feeling, and it does.
This song and the next song probably hit me the hardest. With a runtime of 6 and a half minutes it is one of their longer songs but it does not overstay its welcome at all. With songs that are split into two sections it is very tempting to just skip a section because it's not as interesting as the other section, but I've never found myself skipping anything here. Holistically it all works really well somehow, and I really wanna learn how to do that...
This might just be because I really like them, but I feel that Foals are masters of getting away with lengthening sections of songs, stretching them to be far longer than they ought to be. A fine example of this is the lyricless section between the second chorus and "they buried their gold..." where it's just this low-energy guitar lick. I think it shapes the tone of this song compared to the previous song on the record, and a lot of their poppier tracks.
This might also be a hot take but I feel this is one of their best songs lyrically. Tonally every lyric feels appropriate and it's all sung appropriately and beautifully, especially in the second half of the song where Yannis dips lower than usual for his vocal range.
The arrangement is also beautifully weighted. I specifically love that moment between the two sections where it's just bass, rhythm guitar and drums and once Yannis’s tremolo guitar comes in, Jack starts opening the hihat slowly, and you can tell it's building to something. It's a lyricless section that has such a strong narrative, in my mind. The chorus in the first section is texturally thick whilst feeling thin, as the tremolo there feels dainty as a feather. Jimmy’s guitar part in this song is incredibly nuanced and a highlight for me, and helps allow the structure to work. It's slightly funky but also restrains itself to keep things from being a polyrhythmic mess.
I am so glad that they played this live in Melbourne in July 2019. Up the front, I was definitely the only one that really got around this one and I don’t mind that. Unfortunately they ended the song pretty abruptly and didn't allow it to ring out at the end like they did for that amazing Live de Semaine performance. Jack's drumming efforts are so different! Oh well, we're in a new era of Foals now...
#2: Red Socks Pugie
I'm fairly sure Red Socks Pugie is my favourite song ever. There had been some contenders to overtake that recently from artists but I do think this song has stood the test of time and been consistently great to me overall.
This is the song that got me interested in drumming, and an interest in drumming was probably the reason I got back into production as a teenager. Jack Bevan’s beat is so intelligent and it just makes me swoon hearing every beat he plays. I can’t really put it into words, he went above and beyond for this song. I really do appreciate having two snares for this beat, it makes all the difference. It REALLY irks me that he doesn't do this beat nowadays and elects for a less complicated beat but I guess that's what the live set calls for. :(
My opinion thinks this is their most cathartic song, well beyond Sahara and Inhaler and WWD and Neptune. I personally love the bassline and how simple it is, yet the choice of notes adds this emotive layer that you may not feel until hearing it far too many times like I have. The part where the section changes from F to A minor always has me feeling distress, but as it comes back to that chorus in F it feels like everything is okay and always was. I think it's amazing that they're still playing this song at live shows, but I think it's a sense of pride to their ability to songwrite, because far and away I think this is their best “song” on Antidotes, and I think they think that too.
In the live setting this is another song where Yannis does not sing the lyrics on the recording to a tee, and it works because the lyrics were already so visceral and introspective that saying similar stuff doesn't ruin the message. At first I thought this was stupid but now I'm pretty on board with it.
There's many great live performances of this song but the best would have to be on Jools Holland back in 2007. There's so much raw energy. I would also recommend the one at Glastonbury 2008 because that builds quite well + Jack is quite cute and Glastonbury 2010 because Jimmy accidentally does some mad distortion for the second chorus and it strangely works. OH YEAH, Jimmy's chorus guitar line is godly and so good for filling out more texture. The guitar line overall is very good. Damn, Jimmy is the best member of the band.
The REASON it's not #1 is because while it may be my favourite song, it is not Foals’s best song. It might be tonally consistent, it might be wonderfully simple, it may be deeply emotive, and it may be one of their best live songs, but it does not compare to the atmosphere and intrigue of song #1.
#1: Two Steps Twice
The ultimate Foals song, Two Steps Twice is also allegedly the first song they ever wrote. I'm unsure if this means with their current line-up or with Andrew Mears but whatever. The intro is something that reels you in with its complexity, with the density of polyphony in 6/8 working together with an energy that ebbs and flows. The climax of this section also made me question my life when I first heard it, as it mashes a straighter beat into 6/8. It made me realise that Jack Bevan was far better than he was leading onto.
The following sections don't really need explanation, but are wholly the reason Two Steps Twice still closes 99/100 Foals sets. I've said before how lyric depth isn't important for Foals and this song, like Providence, nails the vibe. It's so great to learn on guitar. It's so great to learn on drums!! Hands down, it is their best live song, with my favourite performances of the song coming before 2013 when distortion sounds got WILD. If you're starting to grow a keen interest of early Foals try and find as many different performances of Two Steps Twice before 2009 as you can, because I feel they're all… different, and yet so wild.
I have a soft spot for:
- the 2008 Live de Semaine performance. It's hands down the best performance of the song. Starts at 15:56.
- Live at La Route du Rock 2008. Jimmy dances pretty awfully and you can really see Jack screaming in the first section. Jack's ride also sounds very good. It's pretty cool.
- Reading Festival 2010. They completely fluff the opening section and then recover AMAZINGLY for the second half. One of my favourite live performances ever. I also think this is the birth of "See ya Fuckin' Later!"
- I've gotta mention Reading Festival 2016. Guy Lawrence from Disclosure joins Jack on the kit and makes the thrash bit actually sound like early Foals. It's wonderful. Everything else is a little cringe though, Yannis doesn't stop shouting about wanting to see "the pits". Start watching from 3:00 for Guy Lawrence.
I don't know how much I can say about this song. It's just really good. It's just really Foals.
What did you think of this list? Do you agree? Do you vehemently disagree? Do you hate me now?
I think I may talk about more Foals at a later date, but for now we'll take a little Foals break.
Until next week!