As I sit in my Philadelphia apartment trapped again by yet another massive winter storm (if the last one was “snowmageddon” this one is more like a “snurricane”) I listen to Fool’s Gold, and dream of the warm places the band evokes. The group hails from southern California, their lead singer Luke Top was born in Israel (and sings most of the band’s songs in Hebrew). Fool's Gold's music conjures a tropical Afro-pop sound that Vampire Weekend only wishes it had.
True, singing Afro-pop inspired songs in Hebrew by a bunch of white guys out of Southern California may sound a bit too much like a shtick for some—as Sean Fennessey mentions in his review for Pitchfork, “watch as cultures collide!"—but there can be no doubt that Fool’s Gold manages to create some fantastic music. “Surprise Hotel” in particular has a guitar sound that makes me want to drink something chilled and vaguely alcoholic out of a coconut on a sandy, warm beach in the tropics. (Okay, so maybe right about now I would saw off a limb to be drinking something vaguely alcoholic out of a coconut on a tropical beach, but I think you get my point.)
At times they sound a bit like Madness with a mean ska groove and tenor sax (“Night Dancing”) and other times they even sound just a bit like Rufus Wainwright on the orchestral and vocally stylistic “Nadine.” Their music is so catchy and danceable that the listener will probably forget that they don’t understand a word Top is saying. I don’t need to know what is being said because Top’s voice collides with the sprinkling guitar, jangling drums, and honking sax perfectly. (The lyrics are included in English in the liner notes for those who are curious.)
I watched the video for “Surprise Hotel” at work the other day with a co-worker as the snow poured out of the sky from our icy second-floor window. “I guess if Paul Simon can do the whole Afro-pop sound and get away with it, these guys can,” she said. I would agree. I also would like to borrow their sun, their palm trees, their pool, and their cheerful grandparents for just one weekend. I would be willing to listen to “Surprise Hotel” the whole time if they’d let me, and frankly, I wouldn’t mind at all.