Fox and Bones: ‘American Alchemy’ (Album Premiere)
Premiering EXCLUSIVELY ON INDIE/ALT, Portland’s Fox and Bones find a space between timeless and current, putting their pulse on the world with their third record, ‘American Alchemy’, due out May 7th via Dutch Records. Photo by Amandala Photography.
Fox and Bones’ new record is quintessentially American. When you think of American music, looking back to the roots, you’ll find the same vintage folk and country sound that swells throughout the Portland band’s third album. But while Fox and Bones stay in a vintage root with their auditorial presence, the duo tap a very modern nerve with American Alchemy.
Recorded at the Rye Room with Matt Greco as producer, the record opens with a larger-than-life sound on “Changing of the Guard”, as Fox and Bones seem to so perfectly capture the spirit and power of the Black Lives Matter movement that was sparked last year. Backed by horns arranged and performed by Dave Mills, both Sarah Vitort and Scott Gilmore are in top vocal form, as Vitort sings:
“It starts with one voice, all alone in the crowd / Equipped with a vision for the world and the courage to testify out loud… An army of incendiary hearts will spark a changing of the guard.”
We’ve all faced enormous hardships in the past year, and in the wake of it all, these moments Fox and Bones provide feel like they speak directly to our current situation. However, the origins of American Alchemy may not have necessarily been meant to strike such a timely chord.
“‘Changing of the Guard’ started to come into being just before the quarantine,” Vitort said. “In a way, the album was not necessarily meant to be a commentary on everything that happened in the last year, but it has kind of become one.”
True to its title, the record went through its own alchemical transformation, resulting in an album that is equally timeless and vitally current, exploring change not only on a global and social scale but on a deeply personal one as well.
“Houses of Sand” provides another powerful moment that speaks to the spirit of protest and social unrest, this time in a gorgeous, sweeping, and inspiring gospel package.
“This is where we all were meant to be / And we’re prepared to fight,” Vitort sings. “As long as there’s this inequality / We’ll fill the night with our cry.”
Later in the record, on “A Strange and Wondrous Place”, Vitort and Gilmore take on a more introspective lens, looking within themselves and barring their humanity in a way that connects deeply with anyone who listens.
“You’ll never be the person you are till you ditch the person you’ve been,” they harmonize over a slow, moving acoustic arrangement.
Though much of the record feels very reflective in its nature, there is hope and inspiration that consistently builds throughout. On “Running Free”, Fox and Bones provide a moment of light at the end of the darkness that feels especially poignant in our current situation.
Harmonizing atop an upbeat and joyous pop-rock track, they sing: “We’ve been through the darkest of our caverns / Digging in till we reach the other side.”
But perhaps the most timely, inspiring, and culminating moment on the record comes in its closing track, “Layers of Antiquity.” Although much of the record may land between timeless and current, American Alchemy’s final song is very much grounded in 2020. Written at the beginning of quarantine, the song speaks directly to the challenges of COVID-19, adding much-needed humor to the reflection of the situation.
Through light, plucky strings that contrast the bombastic beginning of the record, Gilmore sings: “I read on Reddit that as long as I don’t leave the house, I could live to be 134.”
When he wrote the song, Gilmore said, “[quarantine] was just starting, and we were feeling everything shut down, and I was also feeling a little bit of technology addiction. There was a little bit of Reddit scrolling. There was a little bit of fighting against a technology that I also am so wrapped up in and so addicted to, but also just wanting to be real and honest.”
It’s an excellent end note for the record, putting its pulse on the world in a deeply relatable way. As Gilmore continues to dig deep at our shared quarantine experience over the track’s seven minutes, the song then swells into a gorgeous bridge full of hope and healing.
Where American Alchemy started with horns, it ends with a chorus of strings–once again provided by the inimitable Dave Mills. For the entirety of the record, Fox and Bones have held a mirror to all of us. They’ve reflected on the year–on America, on themselves–and allowed us to look back and do the same. After the reflection that they’ve allowed, and the transformation they’ve made with the album, our hope for the future surges.
As the song ends, we are left with one word repeated–a direction we should all strive to go as we leave behind the turmoil of the past year in our lives.
“Onward,” Gilmore sings. “Onward.”
‘American Alchemy’ is due out on May 7th via Dutch Records. Stream it now exclusively on Indie/Alt at the top of the page.
Bren Swogger (they/them) is the creator and editor of Indie/Alt Magazine. Bren started Indie/Alt as a music blog during their sophomore year of high school, and after a long hiatus, relaunched it as an online entertainment magazine in 2021 for their capstone project at Pacific University. After 10 years in the music journalism industry, Bren has a long-standing passion for live music, but also loves to explore their passion for other artistic outlets. You can find Bren writing voraciously, adding to their never-ending stack of TBRs, and marathoning classic horror films.