Fox & Coyote are a five piece band from Minneapolis who mix shoegaze guitar with banjo and soaring cello, all delivered over inventive drumming and bass patterns. The band tends towards the emotionally open in their lyrics which is a good fit with the earnest feel of the music. The band is ‘co-directed‘ by lead singer and guitarist Ryan Evans and banjo and lead singer Jonathan Harms. Together they push Fox & Coyote in a variety of directions – ‘May 18‘ is a fast paced description of a series of romantic events that didn’t quite play out as expected, it has a punchy punk feel to it. By contrast ‘Bed‘ builds on a simple banjo melody, drawing in drums and guitar as it progresses whilst the lyrics paint a picture of a retreat to a childish mode of problem resolution “drowning in a bath tub with the life jacket around my waist and I’m still sinking / you can forget about tomorrow I’m going back to bed again“. Bed really is the panacea “three letter word that solves my problems/…/I’ll while away one little hour until my twenties lose their power“.
Elsewhere ‘Blue Marble‘ eulogises our little planet, cradle of life in an uncaring cosmos that could wipe out our existence with a carelessly projected asteroid. Beauty and callous disregard being the eternally intertwined thoughts that drift on a folk-jazz arrangement. Interesting songs – but is it possible to over intellectualise in music – to just try and be too clever? There are a lot of talented musicians in the world – almost certainly more than there have ever been – and some of them want to display the full extent of their talents in complex arrangements backing up thoughtful and personal lyrics. And this can be great, truly great – but if this was all that was needed then ‘Scattered Shadows in a Double Bed‘ would be a landmark album – rather than one that has over-crafted lines like “later fireflies broadcasting chemical sex-lives” or “love is…a factory, you got to trust that at the end of the line there’ll be everything you cannot be“. These are images that are really being wedged in, some against their will – that first requires some vocal tripping up to get it to scan.
Fox & Coyote seem to want to grab some of that intellectual anxiety that bands like The National do so well, and weld it onto semi-classical-folky-jazzy-rocky arrangements with the tension ratcheted up through soaring and out of control vocals. Some of the time it works.