Phox - S/T LP
Released June 24, 2014
By Brendan Tuytel
What is the modern orchestra? With large bands becoming a trend, replacing the classical strings for electric guitars, modernizing the styles of past, this notion of a modern orchestra comes to life. If this is the case, Phox may just be the oxygen in the bloodstream. Layers of whimsy, maturity, and intelligence all compliment each other in an effort to create one of the most intricate and complex listening experiences offered up. Lead singer Monica Martin’s voice is accentuated by various unexpected forms of instrumentation creating a soundtrack to a twee fantasy world. But to say the voice is what carries the album would be to sell short the cohesive writing the musicians bring to the table.
The lead single, Slow Motion, shows this off in flying colours. Perfectly paced, the song lulls listeners and culls the most complimentary whistling and wind instruments to put over conventional alternative music. The result is similar to comparing a sundae to plain vanilla. But Phox occasionally keeps things simple and this is where my attention is lost. Music is in its most eclectic state and as this is the case, to stand out as unique is a rare feat. They accomplish this when they go for the grandiose and exaggerated yet some of the calmer songs fall short. It’s this inconsistency that keeps this self-titled debut from becoming something truly special. Driven by complex harmonies, once that is taken away the album loses drive. It’s hard to undersell such a thoroughly thought out album, but sometimes even the most thought out actions still come out a bit boring. Phox right now has a lump of clay in front of them and the table is turning with time. Each movement can accentuate the shape of whatever they make, but one miscue and the product just isn’t the same. Fortunately, time is on their side and with them being so new, mistakes are easy to cover up.
The point is, this debut may not be perfect, but there is still so much to enjoy that it’s hard to not see the potential. Modern music is waiting on that twist, that sound that really changes things. If music moves in cycles, then Phox just stuck a stick in the spokes and took control of the steering but where they go next is still to be determined. Simplicity and complexity both have a time and place and with Phox, you can indulge in both simultaneously only one may be more satisfactory than the other.