Foxes is a person (Louisa Rose Allen, to be exact) like Blondie was a band — she’s from England, where rich people have always hunted foxes, and her stage name came more from a dream her vintage-store-running mum had than from 2013’s notorious Ylvis novelty tune about what foxes say.
In fact, she technically beat those Norwegian comedians to the furry little reddish-brown carnivore: She put out a digital EP in 2012, and by the end of the year she was collaborating with Russian-German electro-house fellow Zedd on the song “Clarity,” which wound up a Top 5 hit in the U.S. and won a Grammy for Best Dance Recording.
If you’re a Fall Out Boy fan, you might also have heard Foxes’ voice on “Just One Yesterday” from 2013’s Save Rock and Roll; if you’re a Giorgio Moroder fan, you may have heard her on “Wildstar” from last year’s Déjà Vu.
A couple of her songs — “Youth” and “Holding Onto Heaven,” from her 2014 debut album Glorious, made the Top 10 of Billboard’s dance chart — though she’s not exactly a dance diva. And currently, she is sitting in the Top 10 on Billboard‘s Heatseekers chart with her latest album, All I Need.
She calls her music “experimental pop,” and has listed Björk, Kate Bush, Patti Smith and (above all) film soundtracks as sonic role models; others have likened her sound to Florence and the Machine, Mazzy Star and Robyn.
All I Need has plenty of dark moments, including several numbers seemingly focused on volatile relationships of one kind of another
And no matter what she reminds you of, her songs get remixed a lot, which is apparently how they wind up in so many DJ booths. She’s not faceless, though, or at least doesn’t seem to want to be — hence her charmingly colorful clothes sense, no doubt inspired by the wares her mother peddled over the years, and supposedly inspired as well by Cyndi Lauper and Tokyo fashion. She even tells interviewers that she loves “car-boot sales,” which are apparently sort of like flea markets where British people sell stuff out of automobile trunks.
In between albums, the 26-year old toured Europe opening for Pharrell, and contributed a cover of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” for the Doctor Who soundtrack. For months, teaser singles have been released on streaming services, starting with “Body Talk” last June, to prime the pump for her long-awaited sophomore album. In fact, seven of the 12 songs were released before* All I Need* was finally released earlier in February.
As most of the songs were inspired by a recent breakup, All I Need has plenty of dark moments, including several numbers seemingly focused on volatile relationships of one kind of another — hence, titles like “If You Leave Me Now” and “Scar,” not to mention “Devil Side,” where somebody who’s bad for her is pulling her down but she can’t stay away; that one might even suggest a domestic abuse angle.
“Wicked Love” and “Cruel” land on similar ground; in the whispery, rather Adele-like “On My Way,” she can’t escape, and in the piano-propelled-and-string-interluded “Amazing” she says she should be running away and looking for a place to hide. It’s hard not to detect a certain overriding theme running through all this.
Interestingly, the music seems most effective when it loses its “experimental” tendencies and goes straight for “pop” — or at least, when the experiments stay fun and spunky.
See, for instance, the chipmunk-chattering, Latin-freestylishly ornate minute-long “Rise Up (Intro)” composed with Swedish Svengali Jonas Quant; or the Flashdance-era echoes of the Funkadelic–referencing “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now”; or the Middle Eastern tinge of “Better Love,” written with indie Brit Dan Smith of the band Bastille. There are even hints of Bananarama-vintage Stock Aitken Waterman and very early Madonna here and there. And if “Body Talk” is meant to flash us back to Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical,” Foxes might be slyer than you even thought.