Scotland’s a boy named fox recently released Áine, a four-song concept EP about the metaphorical relationship between a crow and a fox. Reminiscent of acts like The World is a Beautiful Place, Radical Face, and Anathallo, you can expect twinkly, guitar-driven songs with an emphasis on emo, folk, and lo-fi songwriting. The mystique surrounding Áine already feels like the beginning of something legendary – intended to be released anonymously, these songs feel intensely personal and curiously specific. Here’s a bit more background from a boy named fox (henceforth referred to solely as “fox”) about what inspired this collection of songs:

“This is a concept EP that is hopefully going to be part one of three, that tells the allegorical story of a fox and a crow in a desolate landscape inspired by the Scottish Highlands and British Columbia. Particularly, it draws on a mix of Gaelic and Indigenous American myth, and was written as a way to work through the breakdown of several relationships before and during the pandemic.”

The EP kicks off with the stunning “grianstad” (in English, “solstice” – we’ll be learning a bit of Scottish Gaelic and Irish as we work through this review) – here, we’re introduced to the hallmarks of fox’s instrumental palate. Ascending guitars sparkle as they pull your ear upwards in an urgent chord progression that belies fox’s whispered vocals. Mid-song, a tapping snare drum peeks into the mix, while plinking piano notes add a lovely background flourish. Eventually, even a chugging distorted guitar makes its way into the mix, adding to the song’s gentle-but-tangible crescendo. Vague, but poignant lyrics help to spin a heartbreaking narrative – see below:

head is in two pieces
one part here one part somewhere on the plains
with buried bones foundations of a name
and it’s a caustic fight
it tears where they bite

never see them again

“sluagh” (a mythical race that functions as a version of Scotland’s wild hunt myth) is a perfect follow-up to “grianstad,” and follows a similar blueprint. Every chord here feels strummed with a purpose; while gently plucked guitars chime away in your ears. fox extends this song to a near seven-minute length, a creative and bold choice that gives the instrumental narrative of this EP room to breathe. It’s not all storytelling however – just before the five-minute mark, the song devolves into a maelstrom of recording effects. A slowed-tape effect warps this song to an aural sludge, dropping the music to an imperceivably slow speed. It gradually makes its way into the gently bitcrushed beauty of track three, “clíodhna,” (an Irish myth of a goddess who tried to cross the sea to meet her human lover and was swept away). In the most overtly emo composition on this album, fox inspires a shiver-inducing moment as he reaches the apex of his vocal range on the following passage:

a lining of Heather and a walk in the sun
a Juniper garden without anyone
when your father’s head caved in you called to say
it all went wrong when you went away

The gentle vibrato on the word “Juniper” is sublime, and the soaring note on “called” is just too powerful and pained to ignore – this gets our vote for favorite moment on the EP.

The EP closes out with “falaisg” (a tradition of burning huge amounts of heather on the Scottish moors) – at twelve (!) minutes in length, this song is not for the faint of heart. Here, fox flexes all of his songwriting muscles to the absolute fullest, traversing genres, textures, and everything in between on his journey through this genuinely epic tune. “falaisg” could easily be two or three separate songs, but the start/stop energy here that explores everything from blown-out speaker tones to stark, lone chords is an experience worth having. This is one of those songs that’s just better experienced for yourself.

Áine is out now as of June 2, 2024. Check it out via the Bandcamp link below