Foxing bassist Josh Coll recognizes now that perhaps naming the St. Louis band’s much-lauded debut album The Albatross after the symbolic creature from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” was tempting fate. “It was just the five of us in a room together,” says Coll. “I don’t think we really expected our first album to be heard or embraced by as many people.”

Despite that initial lack of ambition, popularity happened anyway, sending the quintet on tour for months, garnering plenty of new fans, but also creating high expectations for a follow-up. “When I was in school, people would say to perform subpar in the beginning [of a class] even if you know exactly what you’re doing so it looks like you’re growing.” Foxing didn’t have the luxury of growing quietly into their abilities, so Coll and co-writer/vocalist Conor Murphy felt a heavy burden. They don’t have to worry any longer: sophomore album Dealer isn’t what Coll feared doing—basically “The Albatross Part II”—but instead a deeper, more vulnerable expression of the starkly realist view that everything is fleeting. (After all, the band’s unofficial motto is, “We’re a band, and someday we won’t be a band.”)

Dealer occupies the triangulated space between the instrumental rock symphonies of Explosions In the Sky, youthful exuberance of The World Is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, and the lyrical catharsis of Arcade Fire’s Funeral. First single “The Magdalene” deals with Murphy’s Catholic school upbringing and how that affected sexual expression. Elsewhere, the lyrics delve into grief over family members and post-traumatic stress. It’s an emotionally raw record, and one that’s still noticeably difficult for the band to talk about in interviews. But Foxing has responded to expectations with a sophomore album that emerges from a vulnerable place to speak plainly and stand strong. [Wired]