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You Can Go Your Own Way: Fool's Gold

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By: Eric Steingold
May 31, 2011
When the L.A. collective Fool’s Gold – whose sophomore effort Leave No Trace arrives in August - started writing and recording music for their introductory record, appropriately titled Fool’s Gold, they must have known that the “new Paul Simon’s Graceland, explicitly ultramodern Talking Heads” sounding comparisons would occur. They had to; it would have been peculiar in every sense of the word if they hadn’t. After all, these were the innovators. David Byrne and Paul Simon were the first people who said, “To hell with all the preconceptions people have about Westernized pop-music; we’re going to do it our own way. And if you don’t like it, well, tough.”

Although, while the practice of pigeonholing and comparisons are easy for critics to deliberate on, Fool’s Gold thwarts them. Admittedly, at first listen, Fool’s Gold seems entirely idiosyncratic. If that’s how you feel once the music stops, maybe it would help to take a step back and realize where this band came from and what they thrive to achieve in every piece of music that they create. They’ve worked hard getting to where they stand currently, and they know it. They started out just as a bunch of friends in L.A. hailing from several different middling bands – most notably The Fall, We Are Scientists, and Foreign Born – playing in parks for free, at birthday parties, and the like, just for fun. They knew that their sound would stick; the persuasive, forthrightly organic sound, complete with Afro-beat and Ghanaian cadences bubbling through disinfected guitar lines, with lead singer Luke Top’s throaty voice singing predominantly in Hebrew, the message here was clear; just let go and enjoy the sounds we have provided for you. This isn’t a record to be taken all that seriously – it’s friends amusing themselves and making great, celebratory music in the process; Fool’s Gold’s mission is to create communal music, which is to say, music that will bring people closer together.

And in doing so, they created sentiments in their first record that have yet to be duplicated by any of their contemporaries. Sure, Vampire Weekend came close in what was a fantastic, nobly executed summertime pop record, which certainly belongs in the same conversation as their coexisting African rhythmic-loving brethren, and deservedly so. But the difference here is that while Vampire Weekend is Westernized pop music with an African rhythmic intricacy lurking in the background of the soundscape, Fool’s Gold is African tribal rhythms to the core, with a bit of Westernized pop thrown in just for the sake of magnetizing an audience. The tempos in this music climb to the surface, providing a unique and compelling experience with every listen. And why shouldn’t it – the group is used to this type of sound - Pesacov has been using African rhythms as platforms for his songs for years now in his other band, Foreign Born.

Throughout the grand arc of history, music, perhaps more so than any other medium, has showcased the frustrations and joys of whatever era it finds itself in. Which is to say that music is important to the well-being of the world. In that sense, it's capable of teaching us many invaluable life lessons. In a sense, Fool’s Gold’s music achieves this same goal, perhaps broadcasting the most important lesson of all: it teaches us not to dwell on unwarranted labels, and to not take yourself all to seriously. Simply put, it teaches us to stay true to ourselves. And if Fool's Gold stays true to themselves, Leave No Trace will assuredly catapult them into the limelight.

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