Out of nowhere
we became so all the time
I didn’t notice
I was focused
Not counting the fact that Foley is a duo based in Auckland, New Zealand – thousands of miles and an entire hemisphere away from New York – it is indeed rather shocking to consider that a good portion of the music consuming world hasn’t noticed this duo from down under or given them the kind of excited attention nearly as much as it’s received from the locals. Sure, blaming geography is easy but, in the age of instantaneous internet fame and a constant public clamoring for new creativity, let’s just start with an apology for being late to the party. Still, better late than never and what better time to jump on board than with an EP titled Vacation?
Foley has been active for quite a few years already, stretching all the way back to 2017 with debut single, “Settle.” Quite soon thereafter, Wallace and Everett quickly gained a vibrant local / regional fan community over the following year, as the two established themselves in the New Zealand music scene with several more single tracks and a debut EP in 2020. While such a gradual route of growth makes international pickup of the band seem somewhat understandable, there’s no missing out on Vacation – or at least there shouldn’t be.
This sophomore EP is an emotionally decisive record for reasons that, after a year like the one the world just had, make for a welcome infusion of positivity and reflection on the heavily overshadowed, joyful sides of the human experience. Putting it simply: Vacation is a feel-good record. However, don’t internally synonymize that one-liner description with the thought of hollow songs lacking conceptual substance. Despite only being five tracks long, Vacation wastes no time, nor does it treat listeners as beings incapable of having a good time while also connecting with real life feelings that extend beyond the expected party and good-time tropes of sitting on the beach, drinking a cold beer, wild dancing, or staying out all night and living while you’re young.
Theoretically, any one of these topical clichés wouldn’t be odd for Foley to embrace, as the band is a young pair of people, with a core audience on the younger side as well. Yet no, Vacation shows introspective depth and a boldly slapping bass beat can coexist exceedingly well. Unquestionably, this recreation-minded release delves into the fun of romantic connection and revelry. However, its lyrical fare, like the below from mid-point track “Better Than Love,” focuses on appreciating the perhaps less obvious dynamics of attraction and budding intimacy, beyond the expected embrace of lust and sexual chemistry that often accompanies summer records.
We get so caught up in the middle
Tryna work it all out
It’s just easier to keep it simple
Keep the label off us
Going heavy on the dreaming lately
Ooh, I get so damn lost in the middle
Lyrics from “Better Than Love”
Then musically speaking, the first two tracks, “Keep Me on My Toes” and “Anything Before You” show they do not mess around. The bass guitar is an absolute stud on both tracks. Its assigned hooks on the songs vary somewhat but in both cases, it propels the music along with a pristinely smooth tone and a funk style syncopated groove that cannot be ignored – especially on the latter, when it completely takes the driver’s seat at the start, behind much subtler percussive backing. In the former track, an equally tone-bold, syncopated kick and snare drum groove round out the rhythmic gravity of the opening hook. The peppering in of clean and bright toned electric guitar alongside the sonic heavy-lifters during the chorus is a pleasant added garnish to the arrangement. Right from this modest amount of starting measures, listeners are presented with a sonic profile that evokes the qualities of the aforementioned funk, R&B, and even jazz, with an opening chord progression that lingers on an augmented 4th outside the song’s E minor tonality, thus giving the melody a flash of blue note flavor up to that point. Then with Wallace’s full but graceful voice singing above it all, with just the right amount of expansively enhancing but not transformative production folded in, listeners are shown straight away that Foley are diligent.
They are diligent the way an experienced hiker knows exactly how to make the most of available space in their pack so that they have everything they need, without making things harder on themselves by weighing down the bag with unnecessary items that will only deplete more energy over the course of a long trek. Every sonic element on Vacations supports the others, as well as their respective songs overall. There isn’t a superfluous sound present.
Even when the closing track, “So Personal,” gives a rest to the bass and drum kit, in favor of the electric guitar as the introductory driver of the song’s hook, the descending melodic sequence draws the listener in and prompts curiosity with a half cadence in the first few bars – it’s literally natural to want to hear what comes next because the notes push for it. Beyond that however, the reduced push for dynamic punch at the end makes sense both in regards to the record’s “vacation” winding down, and with regard to the narrative of the individual song, which also alludes to a quieting evening and a desire to re-orient one’s attention to be only on the host of the night.
We could call it a night now
e could tell everyone, “Go home”
‘Cause you got all my attention
So can we sit and just sink in?
Lyrics from “So Personal”
All the same, despite the EPs mindset re-calibrating to a calmer space, Foley doesn’t let up the creative energy until the last note is done decaying. The verses are lined with a wider variety of tone color in place of the dynamic intensity and that swap ensures the song stays intriguing and fun even if it’s not hitting quite as hard as its predecessors. The single synth note at the top of the chorus, with its doppler-like sonic decay and radar-esque rounded tone, punctuates through the music’s collective smoothness and gathers the listener’s attention in at the song’s most important section but avoids disrupting the overall ambiance of the music with a more abrasively contrasting sound. The same could be said for the song’s percussive beat, which doesn’t even come into play until the second verse onward. While the added weight of the drum beat does fill out the finale, Foley’s switch to digital percussion again, keep the overall sound of the song within a certain smooth temperament, as opposed to the snap and boom of acoustic drums perhaps drawing too much attention to themselves and breaking the united vibe of the music. Being rather different in style from the rest of the EP but still being so cohesive, “So Personal” makes for an exemplary finish. It bookends a strong opening establishment of Foley’s style with a song that demonstrates simultaneous stylistic range and an unwavering ear for purposeful arrangement.
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