Shortly before the release of their self-titled first album, Fool’s Gold debuted a hedonistic, feelgood video for first single “Surprise Hotel.” It’s a simple clip, riffing on the decades-old pop tradition of summer party videos, depicting a combination of swimming, dancing, soda fights and a saxophone-playing bikini girl. It’s not a heavy on effects or trickery, but gosh, does it look fun. More importantly, it’s exactly the kind of visual that pairs perfectly with the band’s music, which is, on its own, a unique sort of summertime party soundtrack.
A collective of musicians from Los Angeles, fronted by vocalist Luke Top and guitarist Lewis Pesacov, and often featuring members of Foreign Born and We Are Scientists in their ranks, Fool’s Gold play a catchy, danceable brand of Afro-pop that, although not actually African, shares more in common with Fela Kuti than neighbors Rilo Kiley or Silversun Pickups. In other words, think twice about comparing them to Vampire Weekend (not that I don’t love them). The eight songs on the group’s first set combine a variety of sounds, tossing various forms of African music, Krautrock, new wave and English- and Hebrew-sung lyrics, making for a rare blend that sets them apart from more conventional West Coast indie rockers.
The aforementioned “Surprise Hotel” is a bright and spectacular jam to kick off the album, a high energy Afrobeat single with some fairly amusing lyrics. Though Top sings in Hebrew, the English translation is printed in the album’s liner notes, with lines like “I’m trapped in air conditioning/ Just because!” standing out in particular. The outstanding “Nadine” is a swirling psychedelic pop standout with lots of vibrant horns and a refrain that demands you to sing along. “The World Is All There Is” is a bit more laid back and meditative, but its choir of backing singers and spindly guitar licks make for a magnificent backdrop for Top’s chants. “Poseidon” is heavier on synth, though the group plays it extremely stripped down during its verses, leaving little more than Top’s vocals and percussion. “Yam Lo Moshech” is a bit on the trippier side, thanks to some eerie Farfisa, while “Night Dancing” is simply one of the coolest tracks on the album, with heavy layers of horns and a high-speed groove that’s meant to kick up some heels, just as its name intended.
For a group of musicians with a primarily indie rock pedigree, Fool’s Gold make some outstanding Afropop. If that wasn’t ambitious enough, it’s only one aspect of their highly danceable, diverse and colorful debut album. Technically speaking, summer is long gone, but put this album on and it will feel like the mercury never dropped.
Video: “Surprise Hotel”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.