FOALS ‘What Went Down’ – a track by track review

Penned by Lauren Ziegler, James Tait and Emma Jones

Howl & Echoes has a longstanding affair with UK alt/indie rockers Foals. We’ve been excited about their fourth album What Went Down for a long while – since their surprise headline set at Splendour ’13, to be precise – and three of us decided to review it track by track.

Foals will be in town this December and January to headline Falls Festival, and hopefully a series of sideshows for those who can’t make it to the campsites.

What Went Down

J: As soon as Yannis wails ‘Buried my heart in a hole in the ground’ and those massive guitars kick in, you know you’re in for a blinder of an album.
E: What an opener! This is, in my opinion, the best song of the year. All out, heavy, hard rock; it’s Foals at their most liberating and emotional.
L:I love this song. I love it. It’s one of my favourite tracks of the year so far. Heavy, passionate, perfect.

Mountain At My Gates

J: Easily cracking the top five songs of 2015, this is a beautiful, heartrending voyage of a song.
E: This is the My Number of the album – but that’s definitely not a bad thing. It’s slightly heavier but easily one of the more accessible tracks, and would be an awe-inspiring track to see live.
L: My least favourite single, mostly because WWD left me hanging for something so much more epic. Bring on the singalongs!

Birch Tree

J: Effortless in delivery and utterly breathtaking, like stepping in from the rain and the wind of Mountain At My Gates and taking a long, hot shower.
E: This is classic Foals, and that means Foals at their finest. Intricate guitar melodies and staggered drums with a classic hook – they’re playing to their strengths here and it shows.
L: This is an example of why I love Foals so much. I’d usually find a song like this so boring – those electro/house elements and a sedated melody should be putting me to sleep, but it’s just so gorgeous and well-balanced that it works.

Give It All

J: A fantastic build up to a mesh of haunting synths, a pounding drumbeat and that mesmerising voice of Yannis behind the wheel all the while.
E: There’s something about Yannis’ voice over the fluttering synths in the first few seconds of this one that had me captivated. He’s so powerful and commanding, as is this song. Definitely one of my favourites.
L: I can so vividly picture this taking place at the Falls/Splendour amphitheatre with thousands of people humming along. Those drums are fucking gorgeous, too.


J: Picking up the pace again, the drums galloping along and pounding you into submission for the roaring crescendo.
E: Is anyone else not surprised there is a Foals’ song called Albatross?
L: I love Albatrosses. This song is cool, but underwhelming and repetitive. Sorry guys.

Snake Oil

J: Foals get amazingly heavy, their guitars all but caked in grime for this total belter of a song that will stop you in your tracks.
E: So fucking badass, this is a ripper of a tune from start to finish. They kick the door in and proceed to tear down the walls with Snake Oil, and I am totally okay with it.
L: Definitely my favourite track. It reaches the unleashed intensity that I’ve been waiting for – screamy Yannis is my favourite Yannis. I LOVE this tune.

Night Swimmers

J: Lightly smoked in some spices from the Caribbean, the breakdown into more dirty riff-ery splitting the song down the middle is most welcome.
E: Returning to the math rock side of things, just listen to the intricacies of this bad boy. For those who are questioning their musical deviation to the heavier side of rock, this track well and truly silences the haters.
L: Okay so it’s slightly too tropical for me, but apart from that, a nice trip down Foals’ memory lane.

London Thunder

J: A stunning and melancholic look at life on the road told oh so evocatively from behind a piano.
E: Much like Spanish Sahara before it, London Thunder is one of those songs that makes a beeline for your heartstrings and tugs at them so hard. Mesmerising.
L: When they said that the album was inspired by 130 bottles of wine, this is the kind of output you expect. Deep, dark and emotionally stirring, lyrically and melodically.

Lonely Hunter

J: The chorus grabs you immediately, the penultimate track as consistent in quality as the rest.
E: Yannis apparently wrote this when he was “crushed”, and crushing it is. There are some deep lyrics here about new beginnings, and Phillippakis’ ability to cut to the core of you is shown off in all it’s glory here.
L: A restrained and introverted tune that leans more towards the lo-fi side of things. It’s missing an explosion, but besides that, it’s one of my favourite singalongs on the album.

A Knife In The Ocean

J: Majestic. As. Fuck. This blew me out of the water and chilled my bones and I haven’t stopped listening since.
E: I cannot stop listening to this song; the perfect closer, summing up everything you’ve just experienced from the previous tracks so elegantly. I think I have this one on repeat because I really just don’t want the album to end.
L: Fucking stunning. A fucking phenomenal single and album closer.