Thought #1: Draining Out a Tunnel in an Albatross
It’s hard for me to start anywhere other than the beginning so before we cruise on Grand Paradise, let’s visit the Old Rock House in winter 2013 where I saw a young Foxing open for Kevin Devine and Now, Now. My memory isn’t great, but I remember thinking incredibly-profound things like: “This is band is good” and “it kind of reminds me of Wes’s music.” I’m pretty sure they had a big drum that they banged on during their set closer too (this could be wrong). Also, Kevin Devine made a passing reference to Foxing’s busted out van window during his stage banter that night, which has to be the definitive mark of a St. Louis band. Sadly, I didn’t buy any of their merch or become best friends with any of the band members after the show. Sadder still, I mostly forgot about Foxing until I saw some people on Absolutepunk talking about The Albatross a few months later. Then I watched their video for “Rory” and I was in.
When I listened to Nearer My God for the first time, and those first notes of “Grand Paradise” booped in, my history with the band came back to me and I was ready for wherever we were going next.
Thought #2: Return to Cookie Mountain
Once upon a time, in 2005, I rode to Champaign for a mewithoutYou show with a guy I didn’t know super well. I actually didn’t know much about him other than the fact that he was cool and had good taste in music, so I mostly kept quiet so he wouldn’t catch onto me being both uncool and having subpar taste in music. Anyways, on the trip, we ran by Best Buy and he bought a TV on the Radio CD. When he put it in his CD player, it didn’t sound like anything I had ever really heard before. The music seemed above me somehow, like I found it interesting, but I was unsure exactly how to appreciate it. I just kinda nodded along, knowing that whatever this was, it was good.
“Grand Paradise” reminds me of this feeling in more ways than one. On a simple note, the way the vocals stack on top of each other, the general groove underneath it all, definitely makes me think of TV on the Radio. But more importantly, it carries this feeling of uncertainty, this feeling of going into unfamiliar territory, of not knowing what lies ahead on the next eleven tracks and being excited by that, a feeling of not being able to define what exactly this thing is yet, but being okay with it, a feeling of just kinda nodding along, knowing that whatever it is, it is good.
Thought # 3: Dharma Initiative
I was bummed when original bassist/co-lyricist, Josh Coll, announced last year he was leaving the band to pursue his passion for film. So it’s cool that Coll collaborated with the band as the writer/director for the video for Nearer My God’s first single, “Slapstick.”
The jumpsuit/bunker from the video reminds me of LOST which reminds me of the time one of my friends got a Dharma Initiative tattoo and I was kind of an a-hole because I said something like, “You know, I thought about buying a Dharma shirt the other day, but then I thought better of it because after this show’s off the air, I probably won’t care anymore.” Yeah, I was definitely an a-hole, there. Sorry, man.
“I walk around with a headglow/ shrugging my shoulders/ fucking up everything.”
Thought #4: I Just Want Real Love For You
“They’re better live than on record” is a backhanded compliment that you may have heard about Foxing. You’re not alone, the members of Foxing have heard this too and they’ve sought to prove that take wrong with Nearer My God. For me, this is most evident on “Lich Prince” the album’s third track. It’s possibly my favorite song from the album. It’s also the song that makes me miss a certain band a lot less. Don’t believe me? Listen to that “I FEEL LIKE A HOUSEPLANT!!” bridge from the 3:10 mark onward and you’ll be feeling better too.
Thought #5: Think of the Best Line Delivery from Nearer My God
If you thought of anything other than the part on “Gameshark” when Conor Murphy sings: “So you’re lost lamb dying on the range in the heat/ soft guts waving on the vulture come and get the meat” then congratulations, you’re wrong (Not really though, this is all subjective and there a lot of good parts, so really just like whatever you want and don’t let anyone tell you that you have to like one part over another, but really those lines/delivery are my favorite on an album of awesome lines/deliveries).
Thought #6: I’ve Never Seen Titanic
And I never will. It’s actually something that my relationship with Stacy is built upon. The two of us are among the few people we’ve ever met who’ve never seen James Cameron’s 1997 epic. Still, it’s easy for me to envision the last few seconds of “Gameshark” feeling like the end of the Titanic, except instead of Leo floating to the bottom of the ocean, it’s a weathered boom box playing “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” the sound breaking up and becoming distorted until it finally fades from view.
Thought #7: America’s Favorite Poolboys
The second verse of the title track connects harder with me than I want to admit:
“Cause I’d sell my soul, to be America’s poolboy.
The crown centerfold
My few good years left, a tribute
To anyone who wants me at all
Does anybody want me at all?
Oh, do you want me at all?”
It also makes me think of Adam Sandler in like three different ways.
Thought #8: Pant Suit Grandma
The day Nearer My God came out, I saw an elderly woman hitchhiking on Main Street even though it was at least a hundred degrees out. So I picked her up and gave her a ride to her friend’s house across town. On the way, she told me how her son was dating a prostitute and how they had taken her car and how much (in very vivid detail) she didn’t approve of this. My 7yr old son was in the backseat listening to her talk the whole time. I just tried to change the subject to get directions to her friend’s house. All the while, “Five Cups” played from my stereo, providing the soundtrack and it was pretty much perfect.
Thought #9: Yeah, Gyrating is Maybe A Weird Word to Use There
The beginning of “Heartbeats” always makes me think of cartoon characters waking up from sleep, stretching out with a great yawn, being adorable. Then the beat comes in and I can’t help but picture all the happy woodland creatures gyrating and busting a move. When the song ends, they just go back to sleep or maybe it was all a dream.
Thought #10: You’re Not Talking That Much About the Album Here, Guy
Oh! Sorry. I guess I want to say that on my first few listens, I considered “Heartbeats” the weakest song on the album. Now, though I feel like it hangs with the rest of them. And though initially, Nearer My God seemed fairly front-loaded, that second half is so rewarding to dig into.
Thought #11: Trapped in a Ruby Tuesday’s
Malls in Southern Illinois seem better suited as the backdrop for a low budget post-apocalyptic movie than a hangout spot any more. Like, they all still have that video-batting cage thing even though Wii Sports rendered that obsolete at least twelve years ago. Next to that is usually a rigged crane machine with PS2 games behind yellowed glass. It’s kind of depressing, but both my kids find it endlessly fascinating. Every time we go to Target, they want to wander around the deserted mall afterwards, taking us past the now closed Ruby Tuesday’s where I nervously (and oh-so-awkwardly) waited tables one summer.
“Trapped in Dillard’s” makes me think of these times. It’s like being stuck between two versions of myself. Between that summer when I was passive to the point of giving up and me, now, walking around the empty mall of my youth with my beautiful family, wondering if I believe in God again. Even though nothing works like that.
Thought #12: You Know Nothing
I don’t know a lot, but I know that “Bastardizer” would be a cool ass name for a sword in Game of Thrones or something. It’s also a cool ass name for one of the best songs on Nearer My God.
I really like that part in the second verse that goes:
“Here lies the magician,
Survived by applause but still can’t listen,
The Patron Saint
You leave a son,
Who has your name,
When you’re finally gone,
He’ll be okay.”
Thought #13: “Oh! We Can Go to Crown Candy!”
The small references to St. Louis are one of my favorite parts of Nearer My God. Since the Rams left for LA three years ago, there’s not a lot that makes me feel pride for the Midwest. Foxing being from St. Louis helps fill that void.
For almost five years, I played in a (kind-of) Christian band with some of my favorite people in the world. Every few months, we’d go play Off Broadway, or Cicero’s, or the Firebird, or Fubar in St. Louis. And even though we had played St. Louis a lot, it still felt new and exciting each time, with us trying to cram in a stop to one of our favorite STL spots before the show. Besides the title that references a place we often talked about going to, but only actually made it to once, some of the lyrics to “Crown Candy” sum up the internal belief struggle I went through playing in a (kind-of) Christian band even though I didn’t feel like a believer.
Thought #14: Almost Five Years Ago
Thought #15: Bravery Won’t Drown
This past winter, I went through one of my hardest bouts of—I’m not sure what to call it exactly—depression? Debilitating anxiety mixed with self-loathing? Putting a name on it seems to discount what those words could mean to someone else that’s struggling…so I don’t know…this past winter was rough though. Track 10, “Won’t Drown” reminds me of the interplay of thoughts I would often go through then, the back and forth within myself, trying to pick myself up, trying to hold myself together for my family, for my friends. Of course, I don’t what the intentions are of the lyrics, but that’s what they mean to me. They provide something like comfort, a small assurance that I’m not alone, and, when that time may come for me again, I’ll probably turn to this song to help me hold myself together.
Thought #16: Spent Too Long At the Gates
The same way “Trapped in Dillard’s” conjures images of abandoned malls spanning the distance between adulthood and lost youth, “Lambert” makes me imagine the afterlife as an airport. Every time I listen to “Lambert,” I can practically see it, not only that, I can practically feel it, like I’m being rushed towards an uncertain destination as chain restaurants and stores blur past me, like I’m not sure I’ll belong wherever I’m heading, I just know I don’t want to leave my loved ones behind.
Thought #17: Damn.
Thought #18: Aren’t They Really Better Live Though?
Well, I mean, here’s the thing: there are some bands/performers you see live and it seems like you’re witnessing something more important than just people playing songs they wrote, you know? Like, mewithoutYou has done this every time I’ve ever seen them, Julien Baker has too, and so has David Bazan. Foxing is like that. When you see them live, it’s powerful, emotional, cathartic, and you truly feel like you’re witnessing something special. Or, no, it feels like you’re not only witnessing it, you’re a part of it. And that’s rare. That’s the feeling I chase, it’s why I still go to shows even though I’m in my mid-30s and leaving my house seems like the stupidest thing I could ever do.
So when people (and by people, I mean me) say that Foxing is better live than on record, it isn’t meant as a slight, it’s meant as a testament to their truly amazing live shows.
BUT—Their records are great too. It’s just that the kind of energy they bring live isn’t capable of being caught on record. It’s something you have to witness in person. Still, buy their records too.
Thought #19: Future Love
After Dealer, I didn’t know how Foxing could top it. There was obviously plenty to build from. I just didn’t know how they could surpass it. Then they put out Nearer My God and it’s crazier and better than anything I could’ve considered. So I’m not going to waste much time on thinking about what they may do next. I just know that whatever it is, I’m in.
Thought #20: Ranking the Albums
It’s probably obvious, but now that I’ve listened to Nearer My God for over a month, I rank them:
1. Nearer My God (2018)
2. Dealer (2015)
3. The Albatross (2013)
Foxing is 3 for 3 with each album improving on the one that came before it. They’re still two albums away from being able to qualify for Steve Hyden’s Five Album Test. Here’s hoping they keep going long enough to get there.
 Unfortunately, I didn’t appreciate Now, Now on this night. Alas, since I’m a big dumb dummy I didn’t appreciate them until a few weeks ago when Kevin Devine and David Bazan released their covers from Now, Now’s album, Threads. So only recently have I begun to grasp the true brilliance of Cacie Dalager’s songwriting. I have since been listening to their discography on repeat.
 A part that I considered putting in the main text (and then considered cutting) is that I ran into the members of Foxing at an Into It. Over It. show at the Pageant in summer, 2014. I approached them and mumbled something about how I loved The Albatross. They were all really nice and it felt as though they would’ve been down to talk with me more, but since I had recently adopted a strategy of getting-in-and-out of conversations with musicians I admire, I just gave an awkward wave and walked off.
 Or maybe you’ve even said this about Foxing yourself.
 I realize as we get older this will be come less and less true, but since we both came of age when that movie was released, this is especially true for our age group.
 Said in Adam Sandler voice, naturally.
 And then that became obsolete at least eight years ago.
 For the record, I live just under two hours from St. Louis, so it’s not like I’m from there, but it’s the closest city with any cultural significance so I’ll take what I can get.
 Also, the 2:45 mark onward in “Crown Candy” is awesome.
 Manchester Orchestra does it sometimes, but not all the time, which I’ve seen them the most of any of these performers so maybe that’s not fair to them.
 Foxing’s bio once (or maybe still does) read: “Foxing is a band. Someday we won’t be a band.”