Four Stars

The self-titled album from Wisconsin sextet Phox is a genre-busting magical mystery tour. Blending rock, psychedelia and soul with Caribbean rhythms and banjo riffs, the result is a summery ferment that makes perfect holiday listening.

Due to be released on September 1st, the album follows the success of the band’s recent single ‘Slow Motion’. Describing themselves as “endowed mutants” who “make music that straddles Feist and Monty Python”, their eclectic tastes are immediately apparent.

The key to the album’s success lies with the lead singer, Monica Martin. Her voice, powerful but with a husky undertone, is redolent of Lana Del Rey: the listener is immediately drawn in to the subtle rise and fall of the melody.

The second track on the album, the amicable, ska-influenced ‘Leisure’, does what it says on the tin. The perfectly crafted melodies are at once captivating and soporific, and the inclusion of string and clarinet solos keep up the interest.

Adventurous harmonies and hazy nostalgia define ‘Slow Motion’. The hammond organ, banjos, and whistling seem opposed to the Caribbean rhythms, yet it somehow works: the song is one of the album’s catchiest.

‘Laura’, placed towards the middle of the album, is a slow, thoughtful lament lasting over six minutes. Lulling the listener into a trance, Martin’s silky voice floats, disembodied, above guitar, synth and string textures. However, the track feels too long: the interest is lost after four or five minutes.

The weakest track on the album is ‘Kingfisher’, which features endless guitar riffs and a whimsical flute solo. Attempting to straddle the line between the light-hearted and the glib, it comes down decidedly on the side of the latter.

‘In Due Time’ is a welcome acoustic addition, providing respite from the eclectic instrument combinations and allowing Martin to really show off her voice. The Caribbean vibe returns for the closer, ‘Evil’, which, despite the name, is one of the happiest, most up-beat tracks on the album.

Phox’s adventurous combinations of unusual instruments, distinctive harmonies and subtle melodies pay off. An outstanding debut, this group seem destined for great things.