Foals frontman Yannis Philippakis is not a fan of double albums. “I like albums that don’t outstay their welcome,” he tells Apple Music. “A sense of proportion and respect for the listener is very important.” This explains why the abundant fruit of his band’s 2018 sessions has been split into two releases. “When we were sequencing they naturally fell into two separate bodies of work,” he says. “This is the Foals album that speaks most directly to the people, because we’re all in the same boat. On a musical level, we wanted everything to be uplifting and urgent. We wanted it to be gratifying on a physical level, and then that could be countered with lyrics that are more ambivalent or melancholic.” Philippakis walks us through that juxtaposition with his track-by-track guide.

“This was a fragment of a track that was left as such for quite a long time. Then the more we thought about it, the more we felt like it was the perfect introduction to the album. It sets the tone, but it’s also not necessarily what people might expect after What Went Down—it’s a palate cleanser. I wanted it to feel like it’s the entry point into the world. Like it’s one of those cheesy ’60s TV graphics where the whole screen goes wobbly.”

“One of the centrepieces of the album. It started off as just a bass and drum jam before we got locked into the groove of it. We were enjoying playing something that was slow and what we would refer to as a chugger. We’re big fans of Talk Talk, and we felt like it had this kind of energy of ‘Life’s What You Make It’. And then lyrically I just had this very big clear visual picture of what the song should deal with. I was attracted to this surreal image of a subterranean world that was full of labyrinths and staircases. Almost like the underworld, or something from the Greek myths.”

“White Onions”
“This song is all energy. It was basically done in the first day and is one of my favourites. We wanted to keep it simple and keep it vital. I’d written this on a loop pedal and I felt it had this early Foals energy to it. I was excited by its kind of needlepoint guitar line. It’s got images of mazes and entrapment and frustration, and just on a symbolic level that’s how I feel our generation feels in some way. It’s a ripper.”

“In Degrees”
“The danciest thing we’ve ever done. We’d always flirted with dance music on the early records; we always took inspiration from techno stuff, and we wanted to push this further onto the dance floor than we’ve gone before. I thought it was a cool paradox to have a dance floor song that will hopefully bring people together in a meaningful way in a sweaty room, and the song lyrically is basically about the lack of that.”

“It came from the bassline and we were just so excited by it. We felt like we hadn’t written anything with that much swagger. I was walking home quite late at night sometimes from the studio and there weren’t many people around and there were foxes everywhere. I’d walk under these Victorian railway arches and think about how the cities and our urban environments are changing and how they’re under threat. In some ways, I feel like the best times are behind us, and that’s what I wanted to put into this song. The feeling that our generation is on its own, having to bear the responsibilities of what previous generations made.”

“On the Luna”
“It’s got a riff that had been hanging around for a while. It was part of another song and then we jammed it one day in the studio and it just came together really well. We wanted it to be simple and gratifying. But it has a peculiar time signature, so it’s slightly nerdy but still instantly accessible. There’s a line in there about Trump and how it’s strange to be in a time where you’re mortified by certain things that happen in politics but at the same time being transfixed by it.”

“Cafe D’Athens”
“This came from a quite crude result of me experimenting on the computer, but then we took the song to Paris and had some musicians play live marimba and xylophone and vibraphone. I’d been writing with Tony Allen, the Afrobeat drummer, and those guys work with him. We basically took some of the songs there to move them out of London for a few days and have them exposed to a harsher environment where they would be attacked. This is a song that for us feels like new ground. I don’t feel like we’ve written a song like it before.”

“Surf, Pt. 1”
“I love records where there’s a reprise. It has a link to album two, as you can probably guess from the ‘Pt. 1’. We liked the idea of having this moment that’s a forebearer of what’s going to happen on album two. When we were sequencing I remember feeling like there was something missing on album one in terms of its arc. We put this in there, and it’s hard to express, but it just did something good for the album as a whole. It was the one missing ingredient.”

“This song is the heart of the record in certain ways—partly because so much work went into it. It was around in the What Went Down period of writing, and we did attempt it for that but it didn’t come together for a variety of reasons, and now I feel like there was somebody doing us a favour because it feels like the perfect song for now. A lot of the album’s lyrical themes are expressed here, too. The lyrics are ambivalent but melancholic and kind of dark. But obviously the song itself has this sugar rush. The second half of the song feels like it’s going to become a defining moment in the live set. We wanted it to be physical and to hark back to British ’90s dance music by bands like Underworld and Leftfield. I’m a sucker for that era of dance music, and there’s something very British about it. I wanted it to have these overtones of the ghosts of thousands of people raving in the ’90s.”

“I’m Done with the World (& It’s Done with Me)”
“Jimmy [Smith, the band’s guitarist] was in Germany and sent me a bunch of stuff he’d been working on. And this one just resonated with me. I was hung-over, I’d woken up on a wet autumn day, the leaves were turning in the trees and there was a fox on top of my shed that I realised was wounded. I called the RSPCA and they said they couldn’t really do anything about it. So I fed it some Peperami and went to the studio. I listened to this song on the walk down on my headphones and sang it immediately after I arrived at the studio. We never worked on it again as it just felt so complete. There was room for me to write a poem onto it and not think about metering and structures and just imbue it with some images. It feels like a cliffhanger. You can see the end credits.”