B-Side Playlist: Phox
By Sean McGee
Phox is/was an an amazing indie/folk pop band hailing from Baraboo, Wisconsin. As of October 17th, 2016, the band has been on an indefinite hiatus. They even went as far as playing a farewell concert. For me, I feel like I arrived at the end of a party when the host is cleaning up and I am trying to take shots. By that I mean, this party should still be raging. In hopes that they will return I will try as much as possible to refer them existing in the present tense. But first, some history.
Here's Phox at NPR Music’s Tiny Desk:
Phox started around 2011 meeting for what were thought to be a couple of one-off shows. The band, seeing promise, put out their first EP, Confetti, in 2013. Over the next three years the group developed a quaint sound and produced a self-titled, full length album. This album brought the band into the forefront of the indie folk scene. Having opened for The Lumineers and playing at the NPR Music’s Tiny Desk concert series, the band gained a newfound traction.
The single “Slow Motion” is the gem of this album. The song’s intense and unique rhythms are what initially draw interest. The percussion’s variance of beats leads the listener to an intense and delicious groove. Matched with the vocals of Monica Martin, the song lands just right. Phox finds this success in three areas which the band masters: rhythm, vocal patterns/freedom, and arrangements.
Phox’s hit “Slow Motion”:
The rhythms of this album truly cover so much ground. One example of the unique patterns used is in the song “1936.” The beat of this song gives a sense of an old country/gospel hymn. In the song “Leisure,” the first sounds seem reminiscent of a lush Hollywood score. Then the song follows more of a traditional pop sound, but as soon the groove lands, the song’s identity heads into a nondescript verse. The songs on this album feel so charismatically played.
The vocals on this album truly bring the ambience. Shaking the atmosphere, the vocal lead is somehow characterized by an uncertain certainty. There is a sense of not knowing where she is headed, but Martin meanders into notes that feel completely right. Vocally backed by harmonies, these complex vocal patterns rise above the band.
The arrangements found on this album keep the interest in each song going. This band is set on creating lots of surprises. Having a unique identity, they can travel between many styles: folk, bluegrass, gospel, rock, pop, and even bossa nova arrangements. Songs like “Evil” are examples that demonstrate the group's ability to orchestrate extremely well. This song contains moments of electronic beats matched by brass interludes that even still find time to give the live percussion its chance to shine. While the music is complex, there never seems to be a moment written for the sake of pretension.
“Evil” Album Version:
I continue to find truly something unique in Phox’s work. I somehow don’t believe this will be the end of Phox. So if anyone is down, show up late to this party.
Originally from Owasso, Oklahoma, Sean McGee has performed across the country and globe. He is a proud member of the Actors Equity Association and the Broadway Backwards community. He insists on a life filled with music, traveling, and photography. See what he sees on Instagram @sean_mcgee13.