Tuesday, October 5th, 2021

Foxes – Sister Ray

I can’t think of anything more deserving of the “NOT a cover” line…


Ian Mathers: This is some fun, bouncy, arpeggiating synthpop about wanting to go out and be delirious with friends, which is always relatable but maybe especially now, but… look, this is from the press release: “‘Sister Ray’ came from a wild part of me during lockdown that was craving a night of freedom and fun again, a longing to let go. The Velvet Underground reference is a nod to describing the most debauched night you could ever imagine but in its spirit it’s a celebration of the people you can have those indescribable times with.” Foxes, I’m not docking any points for this or anything, but I have to know, did we listen to the same fucking “Sister Ray”????

Leah Isobel: I fucking hate Lou Reed. He’s so boring and transphobic, and his canonization reflects the lazy reduction of trans bodies to postmodern symbols that lives on through the Jesse Singals and JK Rowlings of today. All the original “Sister Ray” does is imagine the existence of trans people as an inherent sign of debauchery and degradation. This is to say that Foxes using that bullshit as an inspiration for a sparkly scandipop banger — the kind that a drag queen could absolutely light a room on fire with — is such a brazen act of kill-the-canon subversion that I have absolutely no choice but to stan.

Will Adams: If we’re going to keep paying homage to Lou Reed, I’d rather turn down a straight-up interpolation in favor of a dazzling electropop banger. Foxes’ “Sister Ray” evokes the same feelings as “Youth” and “Let Go For Tonight”; unbridled energy fueled by urgency. The repeated chorus is an effective trick: first, it hovers over a chasm, hopeful but anxious; and then the beat kicks in with synth bursts and bass buzzes, propelling Foxes to that feeling of ecstasy. It’s nice to be reminded that, after all this time, we haven’t forgotten how to dance.

Dorian Sinclair: I know I’m a sucker for dark-edged, throbbing synth-pop, but can you blame me when it’s as slick as this? From the way the opening riff kicks over into the main beat, to the countermelody ghosting over the final chorus, “Sister Ray” makes me miss dancefloors more than I have in a long, long time.

Lauren Gilbert: All the elements for a song I love are here. Disco-y dance track?  Generally, I’m there with bells on. But I’ve listened to this like four times, and I couldn’t tell you anything about it. It doesn’t quite connect; it sounds like it’s building to go hard, and then just — repeats. Foxes can do better than this.

Austin Nguyen: I know the titular reference is The Velvet Underground, but the one that comes to mind is George Saunders: dancing as simple indulgence and ebullience in a violently kinetic world, the sigh and throb of Class Actress synths pressurized into solar flare-blushes and laser beams. Each word is delivered clear-eyed and deliberate, ready to grasp the latent potential of the night; then, it implodes.

Andrew Karpan: Pure, gentle glow-pop that generally comes out as as either unlistenable mush or pleasantly minted Robyncore: by pure luck, almost, this strikes out as more the latter than the former, with largely no help from the 17-minute Velvet Underground record that feels plucked, as if from a hat, to give a title to this lovely night out. Well, it’s certainly the name of a club somewhere. 

Alfred Soto: As it happens, I listened to “Sister Ray” for the first time in years last week. That big dumb hook, Lou Reed’s stuttering through obscene inanities, the battle between his and Sterling Morrison’s guitars and John Cale’s organ (the real terrifying moment), Maureen Tucker’s inhuman metronome — they held up. Repurposing that after-midnight jam into prime Eurocheese might’ve pleased Ol’ Granite Face himself. 

John Pinto: The key to the original Velvets song isn’t the Carnival of Souls-meets-Suicide vamping, or the shift to double-time, or the breakdown around the 9-minute mark when engineer Gary Kellgren infamously fled in terror, or the shocking reassembly the band pulls off at the last minute like Denzel in Flight, or “amph-ph-ph-ph-ph-ph-ph-phetamines,” or even the rancor in general. The key is the way Lou Reed talk-sings, “Duck and Sally in-SI-de,” because if he doesn’t hook you with the first line, you won’t stick around for 17 more minutes. Foxes is after something similar with that stop-start chorus (“We can make to-NI-ght/ONE OF those/SI-STER ray/KIN-da NIGHTS”, etc.) and it certainly kept me listening. But you do get the sense the night longed for in “Sister Ray II” would come nowhere near ending with the room worrying more about the carpet than the corpse staining it.

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: Urgent, brilliant, shining, sweet dance music powered by pithy, romantic declarations that you only wish you had the courage to say to your crush. Foxes sings “You know I’ve been dying to live like this” with a thrill that can only be described as life-affirming. 

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: As straight-ahead of a Body Talk rip as you’ll get in 2021 — which of course doesn’t mean it’s bad but just that it’s moving beyond good and bad in an interesting way. It’s indistinct smart party music, a well crafted piece of furniture more than a song. I like it, but even as I listen to it its details fade away in favor of the overall vibe of sophisticated dancefloors.

Kayla Beardslee: Foxes’ All I Need was one of the formative albums in teenage Kayla’s journey of discovering the joys of pop music outside the Top 40 (which was not actually that many years ago). Listening now to a song like “Sister Ray,” which is Foxes in peak form, it suddenly seems so obvious why I was drawn to her music as a teenager eager for something new. Optimistic, urgent, and sparkling, Foxes’ work is pop music free from cynicism — and no matter how much my tastes might expand, gorgeous, earnest pop songs like these will always be my lifeline.

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