And when the songs are as evocative as the tunes on Foxes in Fiction’s “Alberto” EP, the phenomenon makes perfect sense.
Foxes in Fiction’s take on the genre is a vocals-heavy one, as it sounds like Warren Hildebrand can actually sing. He still runs his voice through the requisite reverb, but it seems unnecessary. The same thing goes for his songs; comprised of many live instruments (and some incredibly real-sounding fake ones, I’m guessing), he seems to have jumped in the reverb-heavy chill-pop movement because it was the hottest thing going. I don’t begrudge him this, but I would really like to hear his songs without all the window dressing.
The reason that’s not total blasphemy is that Hildebrand teases the listener with “Sadiya,” which features solo clean guitar and voice. It is easily the most interesting thing on the EP, as it takes his vision from the other tunes and applies it to a genre where he can stand out. It sounds somewhat like Perfume Genius’ stark tracks might on a clean electric guitar instead of a piano.
Not that his blissed-out pop songs are bad; on the contrary, they’re quite good. Even talent that’s muffled with gimmicks is talent. “Borders” sounds almost like very early Death Cab for Cutie in structure and instrumentation, while the gorgeous “Fifteen Ativan (Alternate Version)” sounds like Mojave 3 with a hyperactive drummer. “OCAD Flu” opens with a distant rapper, brings in tom rolls, samples an unusual breathing pattern (reminiscent of Gold Panda’s eponymous loop in “You”), and builds a song that is much more indie rock than chillwave.
And that’s ultimately what I hope happens for Foxes in Fiction: a break out of the hip and trendy sound toward developing his own path. There are flashes of it all throughout this album, and I can’t wait to hear more of them in the future. I’m not advocating a total abandonment of his sound, either; a few tweaks here and there would turn Foxes in Fiction into a Deerhunter clone (which is not what I suggest, either, but just for comparison’s sake I bring it up).
This is a vast step forward from his excellent-but-thoroughly-chillwave debut “Swung from the Branches” in terms of diversity, and I hope he keeps growing in that direction. “Sadiya” and “Borders” are just too good to not have more of their ilk floating about in the universe. —Stephen Carradini