Coming off of 2018’s III and a successful split single with Andrew Younker, Foliage aka Manuel Joseph Walker appeared to be ready to take the next step in an ascending indie career. Moving out of his bedroom pop DIY roots he left his poverty stricken hometown of San Bernardino and took Foliage on tour with a full backing band only to be stopped short by a violent car accident. Yet if that setback was getting Walker down it’s not evident on this latest album Take which sees Walker evolving his trademark sound and style.
Foliage gently pulls you into its world on the first single “Patterns”, as exuberant wisps of guitar dance around an electronic drum beat sounding like a 21st century Field Mice. Unlike many in his genre, Walker doesn’t lean so heavily on reverb here to capture a mood. His vocals have a warmth and layer to them that feels intimate and his lyrical cadence really brings this song to life. “In Reference To” is another single as evident by the near sing-along nature of the chorus (depending on if you can make out what Walker is singing). Racing along at a brisk two and half minutes, it’s still one of the more memorable moments here especially for the melodic bass lines which often take a lead role. “Apprehension” lives up to its name with a more cautious mood and production. Simple but effective synths conveys Walkers hopes and doubts as much as the songs’s delicate lyrics. One of III‘s best songs was “The Other Day” and Take features a sequel in “The Next Day“. As is often the case, the sequels don’t quite match the impact of the original and new fans might not get the joke, but the song has its own charms and adds to the variety of the record. On “Mother’s Day” Foliage strip down to a basic acoustic guitar and minimal percussion. Despite being outside of his usual comfort zone, it’s a tender moment and a warmhearted tribute to mom. The band revive more whimsical vibes on “To Tell You: I Love You“, a classic indie love song in the style of The Cure, but with a fraction of the track length of their forebears. Sticking with the ’80s theme “Tranquility” with its animated beats and staccato guitar recalls elements of early Durrutti Column while Manuel turns in one of his more soulful vocal performances. Following the same motif, “When I Awake” finds Walker in a similar warm and reassuring lyrical form with a song structure that deceptively lures you in before an abrupt stop leaves you reaching for the repeat button. In many ways “Song to Myself Pt I & II” feels like the true heirs to “The Other Day” by capturing the playful adventurous spirit that made the original a high light of many playlists last year. After spending much of album’s lyrics examining his relationship with others, Walker turns the spotlight on himself here often with a critical eye.
Take finds Manuel Walker taking bold and confident steps ahead as both a songwriter and producer behind Foliage. He’s not afraid to wear his influences on his sleeve or bear a sensitive side to this listener without the cover of heavy reverb. Combined with Foliage touring outside of California this year, Take feels like the start of a new chapter for Walker throwing off the limitations of being a bedroom DIY artist.
Highlights: Patterns, To Tell You: I Love You, Mother’s Day For Fans Of: The Field Mice, Orchid Mantis, Andrew Younker