Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Pitstop: PHOX

When one of your favorite bands personally recommends another band, it's a good idea to listen to them. That's the takeaway from when Typhoon percussionist/ukulelist Devin Gallagher suggested one time tour mates PHOX to me at a show at this year's SXSW. Turns out the Wisconsin natives were on more than a handful of can't miss lists and for good reason - originally hailing from the circus town of Baraboo, their songs contain a sort of imaginative narrative flourish that's sure to set them apart from the multitudes of other folk pop bands plying their wares.

Framed around singer/songwriter Monica Martin, the sextet take a much more laid back approach to their soulful pop-infused folk. It's never quite about the hooks for the band - who certainly have a knack for it if single "1936" or "Slow Motion" are anything to go off. No instead PHOX's main talent is setting and maintaining specific moods while demonstrating their musicianship in a way that's less flash and all substance.

PHOX is a subtly brilliant blend of typical rock instruments with the more chamber pop ornaments - guitar, bass, drums and voice complimented by banjo, piano, and trumpet, clarinet which recalls early Fanfarlo (though more in the assortment than any true stylistic fingerprints). Aside from Martin's tenderly offered vocals, the rest of the band gathers in a decidedly artful and beguiling dizzy whirl of sound. It never quite rises to the overwhelming crescendo, instead settling for calm plods and gentle swells.

PHOX are the kind of band full comfortable in their sounds no doubt a direct result both of the band members years of friendship and time devoted into developing their sound. There's nothing particularly rushed, nothing truly insistent about PHOX and that's a definite plus - their folky pop songs blossoming naturally but ever wary not to overstay their welcome.

PHOX's self titled debut full length is out June 24th on Partisan Records. Orders available here.

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