- Audio CD (1 Sept. 2014)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Label: Partisan Records
- ASIN: B00KU3IXKQ
- Other Editions: Audio CD | Vinyl | MP3 Download
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 168,385 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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PHOX is a bunch of friends from the Midwestern circus hamlet, Baraboo, WI, a place where kids often drink poisoned groundwater and become endowed mutants. They make music that straddles Feist and Monty Python.
It was in Baraboo that the six unlikely musicians attended high school together, some playing on the soccer field, others on video production sets. But in a town with a drive-your-tractor-to-school day, they didn't last.
They did the thing that most people do when they are 18: they fled the coop, each going their separate ways (to film school, cosmetology school, a job with Homeland Security…). But promises were made that couldn't be kept, and as they fell in unrequited love and lost their respective jobs, in spite of themselves, each simultaneously pulled the ripcord and came home.
The sextet promptly (-ish) got a house together in the Portland of the heartland, Madison, WI. As prolifically documented in their online video series, PHOX rekindled their onetime A/V production house while discovering how to live as a family (i.e. how not to berate each other about the hair in the sink).
After two years of cohabiting, PHOX beheld a demo reel of bedroom-recorded music (and home movies) that made Bon Iver and The Fray recording engineer Brian Joseph blush. Donning his producer's cape (and occasional lab coat), Joseph cheer-led the band through its debut album at April Base Studios in Eau Claire, WI.
Joseph's enthusiasm propelled the band through the production of more than a dozen songs that have been swimming in the think tank for two years.
Mixed by Michael Brauer at Electric Lady in NYC, their debut album is a school of simple folk-pop songs swimming amidst a chaotic eddy of rock, psychedelia, and soul.
If the goal here is friendship, PHOX is doing quite well. If the chosen path is blue collar pixel-pushing and church camp trust falls, they're on the way. And if their only coping mechanism is to lay down their arms and, for 30 or 45 minutes a day, shut up and listen to each other, you can't be too upset.
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PHOX give cryptic but entertaining information about themselves online; from their interest in the behaviour of domestic cats to the fun facts* (*disclaimer: neither fact, nor fun) on their website. Their individuality is what makes them so intriguing.
The album was recorded in a studio owned by fellow Wisconsin artist Justin Vernon, but whether or not their music is comparable to Bon Iver is inconsequential. The band, citing influences from The Temptations and Everything Everything, to Feist and Sergei Prokofiev, describe themselves as “making noise; occasionally in harmony,” which is most definitely an understatement. When you listen to their debut, it’s obvious their influences are vast. Is it soul, folk, indie, pop…? The list goes on. There are the gentle woodwind sounds, the sombre strings, melodic piano, and even a bit of guitar scuzz. The closeness of their friendship - all six of them having been to high school together and living together in their motherland of Baraboo - seems to be reflected in the tightness of their sound. There’s so much going on, but it’s somehow all perfectly balanced in the ebb and flow of tracks on the album.
The occasionally cutting lyrics, like those of "Evil," a tale of a cheating set against a Mumford-esque banjo backing with an injection of jolly brass, are interesting and incredibly personal. They draw you into the story. There’s a laid back feel running throughout too, from the aptly named "Slow Motion" with its whistled tune and distinctive clarinet, to the beautiful chirp of "Kingfisher”.
PHOX’s lead singer, Monica Martin, does what comes naturally to her; a breathy whisper with the effortlessness of Eartha Kitt. It’s even more impressive when you consider she’s quite new to singing in public. After one listen you’ll have fallen in love with her laid back, honey-sweet vocal, and this band in its entirety. A great debut.
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