Los Angeles’ Fool’s Gold certainly weren’t the first indie rock band to incorporate a strong element of Afrobeat in their sound. They very well could have been the first one to include lyrics in Hebrew, however, though that wasn’t necessarily the element that made them interesting. Rather, unlike a band such as Vampire Weekend, Fool’s Gold created a debut album that didn’t so much nod to Afrobeat and highlife as actually dive deep into their grooves and loose, funky feel. The video for “Surprise Hotel,” though depicting absolutely nothing Nigerian whatsoever, seemed to summarize exactly what was so appealing about the band in its depiction of poolside mischief and a big-ass party where everything’s chill, but grooves reign supreme. But that was a long two years ago, and Fool’s Gold has moved on. There aren’t as many Afrobeat rhythms on second album Leave No Trace, the lyrics are mostly in English, and most importantly, it’s basically an indie rock record.
Leave No Trace is a much more straightforward affair than its predecessor, offering ten songs with more direct hooks and tight, radio ready melodies. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however. And the band (or collective, given the fluidity of their lineup) hasn’t completely abandoned the Afrobeat or highlife influences. But this time around, they’re subtler accents, while the songs themselves veer much closer to those of Lewis Pesacov’s other band, Foreign Born — mostly guitar-based pop songs with just a little bit of funk, and quite good ones at that.
Opening track “The Dive” easily trumps any of the band’s previous songs in sheer catchiness alone, its jangly Smiths-influenced sound an irresistible confection, albeit with a much less melodramatic singer in Luke Top (though he is certainly expressive). A few tracks down the line, “Street Clothes” is all discoball glitter and synth-funk gurgle, sounding more heavily indebted to disco than one might expect. And the title track swings with more Smiths-indebted rhythms, evoking murky ’80s moroseness with a lazy swagger. It’s a far cry from that band getting funky behind a Hollywood mansion, but an impressive turn of events all the same.
Fool’s Gold have proven themselves adept at both incorporating bold and eclectic sounds into their music, as well as nimble and flexible when it comes to their musical identity. The Fool’s Gold of Leave No Trace is not the same one that introduced themselves two years ago, but what they’ve turned into is no less enjoyable.
Stream: Fool’s Gold – “The Dive”
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.