The daily album today comes from PHOX, a seven piece band out of Wisconsin. The members are all originally from Baraboo, population twelve thousand. After a bit of string pulling, the seven found themselves in Madison, and for indie fans in the area, this has been a very good thing. PHOX definitely has a complexity to them: the multitude of instruments, the audio/video mashup EP Confetti, finding themselves opening for The Lumineers… Sounds like a pretty wild ride. After a tour with Blitzen Trapper, the group claims they are hitting the studio for something serious. ‘Til then, think of this as a very awesome teaser.
Live at iTunes Festival is exactly what it sounds like — a live recording of PHOX’s performance at iTunes Festival on September 3rd, 2013 in London. The set featured tracks from the band’s previous work, namely Friendship. The set opens with “Evil”, a decidedly folksy tune that has all the home made love that one would expect from a jug band. Well, until the electric guitar comes in, at least. Plus the horns… It’s understandable why media types have such a tough time classifying these characters. PHOX has a bohemian quality that makes them (and their music) just work. Like the flute on “Kingfisher” — it’s so subtle, but the track would just not be the same without it. The lyrics themselves are no less subtle:
“Flying one kingfisher, as I was lost | a mind paints a lovely landscape at the cost | of lost actuality, or seeing what’s real | or dodging the problematic way you feel”
PHOX is obviously not afraid to poke at the difficulty of interpreting perception, lacing it in cryptic metaphor and packing it up into a quirky folk pop song. “1936″ feels familiar, but is in all actuality, more familial. It’s not terribly surprising in light of their love for the theatric that this group draws inspiration from Baraboo native Edith Ringling. “Slow Motion” is another complex song, fusing breadcrumb thoughts of sleep, the passage of time, intoxication, and pain into an epic five minute track that is perhaps PHOX’s most genius work. Instruments come and go like couchsurfers, each contributing something unique to the mix.
Things take a curious and slightly morbid turn with “Espeon”, a look into the (teeth-falling-out-of-skulls) future, looking at the past, which (I guess) is the present. Espeon is also widely regarded as one of the cuter/more attractive of the Pokemon species, so there’s that. Really, nothing is off limits for these sometimes stream of consciousness styled lyrics. The album closes with “Noble Heart”, a tremendously powerful piece for the last two minutes; it’s obvious why they close with this one, as it is really the most grandiose, big top affair of them all.
Until PHOX is ready to get back into the studio for something serious, this is definitely a nice way to tide over fans and newcomers alike. Cryptic, stunning, indie rock done by seven individuals united by their love for music and little hometown. It’s a small world, sometimes, and that may just be a good thing in the case of PHOX. Pick up the album at iTunes here.