Foliage is the indie project of Manuel Joseph Walker. The Californian one man act has been writing and producing his own music since he was a teenager, and has slowly but surely amassed a great deal of fans through the years with over a million streams on Spotify as of this writing. Their latest self-titled release released in November will no doubt add to that momentum. Walker’s sound is gentle and sincere, a blend of indie pop with jangly guitars, subtle yet intricate synths and heartfelt melodies. The strength of his songs are in how they seamlessly shift through styles, which owes to Walker’s extensive side projects dabbling in IDM and math rock and his love of 80’s indie pop bands like The Smiths and The Cure.
It’s not hard to find yourself empathizing easily with these songs. “Straight Out of the Gate” starts the LP with a moody vibe over lush falsetto vocals. In it the narrator shares his insecurities while proclaiming how he : “wants to be a warrior not a worrier.” The slow tempo of “Hand” and its sincere recollections of childhood along with its glimmering guitars can make anyone reflect on their own lives and the others they’ve affected. Add to that the versatile execution of his vocal lines, and it gets hard to overcome the nostalgic thrills.
While both songs dictate the overall demeanor of the LP, there are also experiments here that show Foliage’s versatility. “Better Man” is driven by a jazzy Bossa Nova rhythm with acoustic instruments with an 80’s indie pop feel to its melodies. “Richard D” follows almost as it’s exact opposite as a quirky electronic art piece/interlude that’s sure to throw listeners off.
At the tail end of the LP there’s a one two punch in “Smokey” and “Tomorrow”. Two tracks that contrast each other yet blend seamlessly into one pleasant send off. The former plays on a dynamic of harsh shoegaze textures against clean glimmering guitars. Walker’s artistry is in full display here as he adeptly plays around these two contrasting styles. The closing track then pulls the acoustic guitar into focus, ending the whole journey in a relaxing pop song that opens its windows to the hope of tomorrow.
With an array of skills in songwriting and production honed through the years and an impressive discography of consistent releases. Foliage is poised to turn even more heads in the indie scene, and that’s all well-deserved.