Today’s Song: Fox Academy’s “Luck” Locates the State of the World

Fox Academy © 2020
Fox Academy © 2020
In “Luck,” Fox Academy tell us they’re scared, and it’s okay if we are too.
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Stream: “Luck” – Fox Academy

Lo-fi and melancholic, Fox Academy’s “Luck” is like staring at the ceiling, having bedroom conversations with friends in a late-night mood and contemplating the state of the world. A track from their most recent album Rabbit, “Luck” leans into what the duo does best: a fuzzy wash of feelings; a soundscape comprised primarily of a synth backdrop and recurring acoustic refrain, with the intermittent surfacing of electric guitar twangs. The musical project of Portland-based Michael Todd Berland and Christian Novelli, Fox Academy is often lovesick, existential, sentimental. In “Luck,” they seem to find refuge in something a little more surreal.

Luck - Fox Academy
Luck – Fox Academy
I am pushing my luck
With these few years that I’ve got
 Carry baskets
Full of tragedy
If I have to
Jump like a rabbit
I just hope that
The water’s shallow

The track begins a three-note synth intro that sounds like a question mark, followed by an acoustic melody. The vocals, when they appear, are unhurried, paced, heavy. Fox Academy’s somber, almost ancient vocals are rounded out with Jordana’s softer, more intimate sound with a Clairo bend, mirroring notes and harmonizing. Her wordless vocalizations occasionally drift in like sighs. An electronic thump and clap keep the time to start off. It’s an atmosphere of textures that melt into each other. As they riff about growing up, we’re pulled into a range of contrasting imagery, at times innocent and at times harrowing:

School shooting
Where I lived as a kid
Butterflies circling
Around our heads
rabbit - Fox Academy
rabbit – Fox Academy

Moments of “jump[ing] like a rabbit” become imbued with an anxious, Lynchian undertone when “tragedy,” “school shooting,” and “ambulance speeding by” loom above. When butterflies are juxtaposed against the site of a school shooting, we’re left with a kind of oxymoron. Just as we wish to fall back onto youthful symbols of innocence, we become painfully aware of the distance between our fantasy and the cruel reality in which we live. It’s poetically done, and the effect is full of poignancy. “Luck” is not just about the state of the world or the concept of hope alone: it puts those things side by side. We’re like Alice in Wonderland.

Later, as the band continues to grasp for ways to cope with reality, they offer up material goods:

When are you off work?
Can I get you something
From the store?
How can I, how can I
Help you feel better?

Maybe buying things from the store can help make us (and them) feel better. They’re real, at least. Here, the drums shift gears into syncopated claps.

Fox Academy 2020
Fox Academy 2020

In “Luck,” the beats and their frequent switch-ups are what push the song forward. They disappear when the band sings about the school shooting, and two-thirds into the song, they turn into a four-beat, jazzhop groove. At the same time, the line “how can I help you feel better?” reappears, sung again and again along with the repeated plea of “hope I wake up,” and we seem to have suddenly plunged into a daydream, swirling in questions and doubts while a four-note synth melody dances lightly in the background. The song ends on:

Ambulance speeding by
32 Cherry Blossom

No more metaphors, feelings, or thoughts. Just the facts right in front of us.

The future remains uncertain in “Luck,” and the act of hope itself tells us that things aren’t all that great right now. It’s “pushing my luck” and “wishing you luck,” a private conversation between Fox Academy and us, where they don’t pretend to offer up empty promises or easy solutions. Instead, they ask us to let go for a little while, sink into the bleary world of uncertainty, and reemerge on the other end feeling, perhaps, understood and with company.

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Stream: “Luck” – Fox Academy

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rabbit - Fox Academy

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