REWIND: Draw Down the Moon - Foxing
Throw away the albatross, take fortune in everything.
REWIND is a series where we take a moment to turn the clocks back on an amazing album from yesteryear. The music journalism wheel turns too quickly, favouring new releases and forgetting history quickly. It makes sense - it’s a profitable model for the industry - but, we aren’t making a profit anyway. Why not take some time to revisit old favourites?
I love a good concept album. Whether it’s one that tells a continuous story across each track (like The Decemberists’ magnum opus The Hazards of Love), or one that explores big themes in different ways (like Lucy Dacus’ nostalgic Home Video), it’s testament to an artist’s vision that they can bring together individually excellent songs to create a bigger picture. Foxing are no stranger to concept albums: their underrated sophomore effort Dealer was a brilliant examination of Christian guilt. However, Draw Down the Moon is their strongest statement yet. Taking on what’s described as the band as “cosmic significance”, each track, to me, explores different aspects of love: the highs, the lows, and its absence.
The opening track, 737, blew my mind on first listen. From the foreboding guitars and incredible falsetto vocals, it continuously builds, beginning as a skeletal ballad, descending into post-rock chaos. From the opening metaphors of a retired aeroplane, painted over and over until it’s too heavy to fly, and the Curiosity rover isolated on Mars, we built into an unforgettable chorus that in some ways serves as a call to community and a mission statement for the album as a whole: I can’t do this alone. However, the song’s glorious pinnacle comes in the incredible outro. Vocalist Conor Murphy harks back to the band’s earlier days with a full throated screaming performance, setting the stage for each subsequent album track by foreshadowing lyrics and themes:
"The planеs that never fly
The dеbt that never dies
The beacons never light
The moon stays in the sky
The lightning never strikes
The homes I've left behind
The floors I'll never find
The eyes that never cry
The love never believed
The dead who never speak
The spells we're whispering
Draw your moon to me."
It’s no wonder the band ramped up their aesthetics and production value for this album. In donning a warrior’s armour and sword on the cover, Murphy references his own DnD character. Indeed, fans were first introduced to this album through an online campaign, revealing images and lyrics that would hint at themes and lines of the upcoming album. It’s a fittingly fantastic setup for what is the band’s biggest and best album yet, surpassing the incredibly high bar they set for themselves with 2018’s Nearer My God.
The song that gripped me the tightest upon initial listen was Beacons, which swaps their early Phil Elverum influences for Passion Pit, with its monstrous synth bassline and rippling guitars like refracted light. Even before I learned that it was a bisexual anthem, it was easy to find solace in the song. It sounds like freedom in musical form, leaving you no choice but to get caught up in the flames. Every lyric resonates with me, but particularly these ones, which beautifully capture the feeling of queer euphoria:
"Fire broke loose in a moment there
I let it breathe for the first time
As it danced through the room, undressing
It held the closet shut
But I was out with the
Beacons of that shame, left behind."
Draw Down the Moon is an album that explores all the complexities of love better than any I've heard in a long time. Every song provides gripping vignettes of devotion or tragedy, resulting in equally show-stopping tracks whether they’re wrapped up in poppy hooks (the floor-filling Go Down Together) or desperate howls (the Albatross-esque Cold Blooded). I’m particularly fond of the contrast between Bialystok and At Least We Found The Floor. The former marries a danceable beat to a relatable portrayal of loneliness and homesickness, where the cherry on top comes in the swoon-worthy couplet of “I was just thinking about arguing in the kitchеn / Just to be the one that you argue with is a miracle in itself”. ALWFTF, on the other hand, is a sparse acoustic hymn that narrates personal tragedies while posing a harrowing question - is it really possible to hope that things get better when there’s always the propensity for greater loss in the future?
It’s a question that’s somewhat answered in two parts in the closing tracks. If I Believed In Love is one of several songs here that references lyrics from Foxing’s first album, The Albatross. It ultimately discards the shame referenced in Beacons, discards all logic, and embraces the love of another. Closing track Speak With The Dead offers an alternative answer. It’s a sister song to Five Cups, the centrepiece from Nearer My God, in that both songs are about grieving a loved one. However, while Five Cups is rooted in denial and anger, Speak With The Dead proceeds through depression to acceptance. There’s enough brilliant ideas in this song to fill a whole album - from the cinematic percussion builds, through vocoded screams, to the glorious time-shifting outro assisted by Yoni Wolf of WHY?
It’s easy to throw around a word like “masterpiece” haphazardly, but I mean it wholeheartedly when I say that Draw Down the Moon is a masterpiece of an album. There’s something to be said for any record that can run the full gamut of emotions and engage with the listener on every level. Today marks it’s first birthday, and no album released since comes close to it for me.
AC is the Head of Written Content at QSO Media. Follow them on Twitter.
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