Fox & Cats, This is Your Brain on Love

Fox & Cats, <em>This is Your Brain on Love</em>

I’d been wanting to say something on this little site about Fox & Cats for some time now, but while I procrastinated and got wrapped up in other things, the duo (Josh Willems on guitar and vocals and Nicole Wiggington on drums) continued right on making music, and released their first “real” release this past summer, the EP This is Your Brain on Love.

And now, having finally had a chance to listen to it, I can’t in good conscience not talk about these folks, because this unassuming set of six songs has barreled straight into my head and heart and set up its own little hobo encampment of a home, where it now sits, strumming and howling and alternately hanging its head and smiling widely.

True to the title, yep, it’s all about love here; well, kind of, anyway, because it’s actually about love gone awry, and the damage that can do. This is Your Brain on Love sees Willems cathartically dissecting what went wrong and assessing blame, all over surprisingly muscular, gritty-sounding guitars (which make me think of Hot Rod Circuit more than anything) and Wiggington’s strident, locked-on drumming. The latter, by the way, is pretty stellar, with Wiggington playing loud and steady but throwing in some nice fills exactly where she needs to; no more, no less.

The songs drift across the line between indie-pop and pop-punkish rock, with riffs worthy of the Dear You handbook, Willems’ desperate, impassioned singing, and a sometimes-subversive sense of power-pop melody — there’re bits and pieces of Ultimate Fakebook and Fountains of Wayne and Jawbreaker and The Get Up Kids in there, mashed in together below the vocals, which make me think of both early Bright Eyes (especially the tormented yelps) or Say Anything’s Max Bemis (and yes, both of those are good things). There’s also a hint of Blake Schwarzenbach in there, but it’s more in the way Willems delivers his lyrics than anything else.

Ironically, where the music is the cheeriest, the song’s often the bleakest, as on the weirdly happy-sounding “Terrible Things,” which sees Willems contemplating suicide over the end of a relationship, or jaunty, bouncy “Write It Off,” which is the most seemingly light-hearted song you’re likely to ever hear about sensing your lover’s cheating on you. The more thoughtful, self-aware tracks are actually darker and rougher, like opener “Thoughts,” which wins as my favorite track on here, and the slow burn of the title track, where Willems really cuts loose with some impressive howls.

This is a band that’s still in its early days, it’s true, but for their first real offering out to the world at large, This is Your Brain on Love easily demonstrates that Fox & Cats know what the hell they’re doing. If you’re smart, you’ll start listening now, rather than later.

[Fox & Cats is playing 11/7/13 at Fitzgerald’s, along with Kevin Devine and The Goddamn Band, Now, Now, & Harrison Hudson.]
(self-released; Fox & Cats --; Fox & Cats (Twitter) --; Fox & Cats (ReverbNation) --; Fox & Cats (Bandcamp) --
BUY ME: Bandcamp

Review by . Review posted Thursday, November 7th, 2013. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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3 Responses to “Fox & Cats, This is Your Brain on Love

  1. Dre on November 21st, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    Yeah, I really dig these guys, seen them a few times and never dissappointed.

  2. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 2: Buxton + Mikey & the Drags + The Tyburn Jig + March to the Sea + Fox & Cats + Pope + More on November 30th, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    […] Fox & Cats/Vanilla Sugar/Kose @ Montrose Proper ($5) I’ve raved a few times recently about indie-pop-rock duo Fox & Cats, I know, but dangit, I’m gonna do it again. The more I listen to the band’s recent This is Your Brain on Love EP, the more addicted to it I get; the songs are packed full of bright melodies, desperately strained vocals (think Bright Eyes or Jawbreaker), and sneakily dark lyrics, and they all work really, really damn well. Full review up over here… […]

  3. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 1: Bun B & Houston Symphony + Mike Doughty + The Head and the Heart + Henry Kaiser + Polica + SCENE FEST II + More on August 19th, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    […] with stellar indie-rock/pop duo Fox & Cats (who yours truly reviewed recently over here) and rootsy, throwback-sounding rock band Mama Tried. Get on […]

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