The eponymous debut album from the Baraboo, Wisconsin-based seven-piece is as unassuming as it is oddly decadent, offering up a heady mix of cosmopolitan, worldbeat-infused, yet still distinctly Midwestern-sounding indie pop and breezy collegiate folk that falls somewhere between Vampire Weekend, Norah Jones, Brazilian Girls, and Sade. These are songs meant to accompany late-night misadventures filled with sugary drinks, shimmering, post-skinny-dip neck lines, and exhaustive, yet never combative pre-dawn discussions about love, religion, sex, and death, and they're delivered with supreme lubrication via the soulful and hypnotic voice of formidable frontwoman Monica Martin. The evocative, stripped-down "Calico Man" sets the table, laying out a cool pastiche of bossa nova-kissed indie pop and de-fanged Brooklyn cool that deftly juggles melancholy and sweetness, serving as a nice intro to the string-laden, music school chamber pop of the more propulsive "Leisure" and "Slow Motion." The band tightens up on the rolling "1936," a loose and luxurious, summery earworm that explains why the group has shared some dates with fellow folk-pop confectioners the Lumineers, and that predilection for crafting likeable, slow-burn mixtape fodder that sits firmly on the angel's side of the listener's shoulder is furthered by the like-minded "Kingfisher," "Shrinking Violets," and the shape-shifting "Evil," the latter of which manages to segue effortlessly from glitchy Afro-pop oddity to Burt Bacharach-infused road trip anthem. Phox is an undeniably tight unit, and their long history as friends imbues each track with a distinctive warmth that eludes similar-sounding acts, but their not-so-secret weapon is Martin, who can bend cliches to her will, and does so often throughout the 12-song set.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger