The brainchild of the brilliant and deeply insightful Americana rock power trio of frontman Dave Kajganich, guitarist/bassist Jerry Popiel and drummer Tom Stickley, Fox Apts. is a somewhat prosaic name for a mythical residential building where crazy, sometimes abstract plots are hatched, inventive, often colorfully symphonic epic songs are birthed and famed alt rock and roots musicians pop in and out.
Under the watchful eye of veteran producer Mitch Easter (early R.E.M., Ben Folds Five, Suzanne Vega), the band infuses their ambitious, wildly adventurous (and perfectly titled) debut album Omen with tunes driven by both easy strumming jangling acoustic grace and bustling, hard edged electric fire (often on the same piece), with fascinating though sometimes intentionally inscrutable lyrics about topics that serve to incisively illuminate the dark, haunting and sometimes murderous underbelly of life in America.
Once they establish their intricate narrative cred and explosive alt meets roots rock acumen on the rollicking opener “Stars Of The 10-32” (about haunting memories of a childhood drowning), Fox Apts. opens the door on a lot of amazing, usually taboo territory, including the depressing ongoing daily cycle of violence (“Monday Murders”), the bloody personal cost of ill-conceived wars (“Come and See”), the heartrending cost of familial queer bullying (“Moon Moon”), the environmental price we pay for supposed economic growth (“Goliath Lumber Co.”), etc.
Along this searing and compelling but absolutely necessary to road, the trio blesses our senses with an initially sensitive, then progressively chaotic look at the humanity behind an eventually executed Death Row inmate who declared his innocence (“Robert Pruett”) and a rumbling, heavily percussive romp about a fictional mountain man who curses 1920s record producer Ralph Peer after believing the man stole and profited from his songs.
Another gem, this one featuring the hypnotic banjo of Rex McGee, is the stark acoustic ballad “Founders Blues,” a campfire song written for Luca Guadagninoto’s 2022 film Bones and All but then unfortunately cut from the film. Fortunately, the scene it was cut from has been released as a video – and the song, quirkily notable for the many words Kajganich finds to rhyme with “best,” makes a splendid addition to Omen. Proficient and dynamic musicians all, these three guys have so much to say and so many clever ways of imparting story details that you may need to live with the lyrics for a long time to fully understand their exciting creativity.