Pitchfork

Rating: 7.3
The Foxymorons are a duo of childhood friends hailing originally from Mesquite, Texas. Their first two albums established their love of classic pop and the alt-country sounds of the mid-90s, but the trail went cold after 2001’s Rodeo City as David Dewese and Jerry James worked on other things in separate parts of the country. Hesitation Eyes is their long-time-coming third LP, recorded via the ever-popular tapes-through-the-mail technique. Strangely, it’s also their highest-fi record yet.

Dewese and James alternate lead vocals, switching off every other song for most of the record. One of them– they never specify who sings on what– has a powerful, dusky croon, while the other gets by with a cranky indie rock croak. The two sound best, though, in two-part harmony, especially on the title track, which closes the album with a blast of glorious falsetto power-pop, tambourine filling in the backbeat amid thumping toms and descending guitar chords that read like a tour of Cheap Trick’s greatest hits. The band takes a similar approach on “Just Because”, which rightfully should be the album opener, but is instead slotted behind “Harvard Hands”, a song that’s too slow and uneventful for track one billing.

Sequencing errors aside, the record is characterized by strong songcraft and a few nicely chosen sonic flourishes, such as the e-bowed lead guitar on “Everything Changes” or the weird, spacey noises that open “I’m Still in Love” in a universe somewhere parallel to the minimal piano and drum shuffle of the song itself. As such, Hesitation Eyes is a sturdy album, a slightly more sophisticated update of the band’s past output, and an indication that even with a non-traditional working relationship, the duo still has room to grow.

— Joe Tangari, January 10, 2006

http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/3353-hesitation-eyes/

PASTE

On their third album, the Texas/Tennessee-based Foxymorons don’t take many chances. With such effortlessly graceful songwriting chops on their side, there’s really no need. Hesitation Eyes is a genial, charming record, conflating modern radio rock’s winning melodies with an indie rocker’s relaxed delivery. “Harvard Hands” pairs gentle country strumming with a mumbly Stephen Malkmus turn, and “The Lazy Librarian’s Son,” with its dreamy reverb guitar and sultry vocals, is a little Toad the Wet Sprockety (in the best way imaginable). Clip this review for posterity. It’s the only time you’ll ever see me favorably compare a band to Toad the Wet Sprocket.

Copper Press

This aptly-monikered outfit doesn’t disappoint with this alternately challenging (“Harvard Hands” and “Are You Tired?”) and accessible (“Just Because”) album, which calls to mind Wilco’s Being There and Summerteeth (albeit the less psychotic sides of the latter) with a healthy helping of Big Star’s Third/Sister Lovers thrown in along the way. But it’s the closing, Husker Du-inflected title track that seals the deal and makes you understand just exactly how powerful, intelligent and memorable this outfit can be. Don’t dismiss it just ’cause you don’t get it the first time ’round.

Neumu

Unthinkingly, I didn’t save Robert Ray’s response to what could only be called a fan letter, and I don’t recall exactly what the former co-leader of the Vulgar Boatmen wrote. But I know why I wrote him. First I met someone, and then a copy of a mix tape containing the Vulgar Boatmen’s “Heartbeat” opened me up perfectly, adult emotion as intimate undercurrent for what could only be called a pop song. While completists will elbow in here to say how The Gizmos’ version, the original one written by Boatmen co-founder Dale Lawrence, before he was a Boatman, is the more crucial recording, rhyming “beatin'” and “needin'” with a let’s-go count… well, not so for me. I haven’t listened to that tape or talked to that person since forever, but Hesitation Eyes, with backlit associations including the remembered warmth of the Boatmen, is one of the most meaningful departures from the rock show I’ve heard in a while. It’s an album that makes me feel the way I felt way back when.

The smart, Pavement-like lumping together of love and outdoor sports with what it feels like to be the one willing for one last try might be just what you expect from a band called The Foxymorons, but Hesitation Eyes is no laconic try-on. Instead, long-distance collaborators Jerry James and David Dewese are so unassuming in their affections that it all sounds instantly right. Anyone who enjoys music knows what a rarity it is to find a longplayer where every song hits its mark. And, of course, there probably is no more subjective balloon to loft in a music review. But Hesitation Eyes is more than deserving (even if the Foxymorons are quiet about it).

Previously James and Dewese have had fun with their proud Texas roots (as well as Big Star infatuation) with a now-out-of-print 2001 full-length called Rodeo City, recorded by Centro-matic’s Matt Pence. With Hesitation Eyes the pop sensibility is equally inherent, but with more subtly drawn lines (here Pence does the mixing). Power pop is less evident (though still present in Dewese’s rouser “Terror on the Tarmac”) in favor of some Wilco-style loose-limbed electronics heard on “A Magazine Called Sunset.” There is some whirring, some clicking, but they don’t take away from the twilight moments or the gloried, tamped-down “Good Vibrations” back-up heard on “Just Because,” where the past can’t be rearranged and it would hurt even more if somehow it could.

I like how easy Hesitation Eyes sounds, James’ slightly ragged, plaintive vocals perfect for the slim, flinching cadence of “Harvard Hands”: “The spring is when this firm recruits/ I’ll polish off my navy suit/ I can set your pulse to rest/ I love you though I’m second best.” It lopes like any one of the best early Pavement songs, and you don’t even care that someone else’s prints are all over it. It only impresses that intelligent slack hasn’t lost its appeal and that James is no mere stand-in. Meanwhile, Dewese is the more Dando of the two, with the smoothed-out delivery of the onetime Lemonheads’ frontman or a less breaking Lou Barlow. Not surprisingly, Dewese also plays in the Luxury Liners, the full-frontal pop machine that The Foxymorons are not. And that isn’t a bad thing either.

The sound of “The Lazy Librarian’s Son” conveys so much feeling that most of Dewese’s words seem beside the point, save for lines such as these: “It might take a while to realize/ But I’m telling you with regretful eyes/ Hold on to what you’ve come to find/ As boring and ordinary.”

That James and Dewese aren’t of the same pop mind is what makes The Foxymorons so attractive. That they telegraph their hits into each other’s answering machines and mailboxes isn’t so much a novelty but what affords the music – some banjo, soft piano, revving power chords and pure harmonies – its identity. With any luck the attention they’re currently getting – including a “Band of the Day” mention on Spin.com – will keep The Foxymorons from slipping into the same obscurity as other thoughtful lo-fi interpreters the Mysteries of Life or Sleepyhead (to name just two). Hesitation Eyes is winning in its ease and reflection: favorite records, better-spent afternoons, and how life bends you but doesn’t break you. Not so simple after all.

All Music Guide

The Big Star/Lemonheads references are likely to continue on The Foxymorons’ third release. Four years after the duo’s well received Rodeo City album, Hesitation Eyes continues the indie-pop vein they excel at. The multi-talented twosome of David Dewese and Jerry James plays all the instruments except for occasional drums, but the album doesn’t feel excessively overdubbed, even though it was created by mailing the tunes between the members. Neither musician is given credit for any particular sound or even vocal, but that just adds to the group’s mystique. Regardless, this is a subtle gem, filled with lovely, easy going tunes that never pander to lowest common denominator hooks. This lets the songs breath with an airy yet compressed heartbeat. Echoes of the Beach Boys (especially on the breezy “The Lazy Librarian’s Son”), the Velvet Underground’s third album and Jonathan Richman’s offbeat childish innocence pervade the project, even while the group forges its distinctive sound. Banjo, stun-guitar, simplistic keyboards and sunshiny harmonies float between the notes, often obscuring the witty and offbeat words. But after a few listens, the generally deadpan vocals and even-tempered melodies make it easy to latch onto the duo’s concept of obscuring the lyrics’ darker characteristics under lighthearted but never simplistic melodies. The power pop of Matthew Sweet and The Records is also a touchstone, especially on the propulsive title track, as these songs float rather than sting. When the shimmering “Everything Changes” appears, nearly buried at track 10, you realize how deep this album is. The flow is slightly derailed when the last two and a half minutes of “Are You Tired” shifts to unnecessary sound effects of a train leaving a station followed by traffic and crowd noises that last way too long. Yet, like the best pop, each chorus grabs on and won’t let go, rerunning itself in your mind like unforgettable lines of a classic movie. This makes Hesitation Eyes a beautifully crafted, humble treasure that deserves a wider audience than it is likely to get due to its indie label status.

Punk Planet

If this album were wedged right between Summerteeth and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in Wilco’s discography, the casual listener would think it totally natural. Twangy pop with enough little electronic loops and flourishes to keep it interesting..

San Francisco Weekly

Turning 21 as an indie rocker is the motherlode. Turning 31 as an indie rocker is just a mother. If you’re still playing music, you’re supposed to have, you know, evolved. Go Brazilian. Compose minimalist film scores. Anything but the same old, same old. Which is exactly why the Foxymorons are such a breath of fresh air. The duo of David Dewese and Jerry James loved alt-rock bands like Teenage Fanclub and the Lemonheads 10 years ago, and dammit, they still love them now. The Foxymorons’ gusto for the days of honeyed hooks and distortion pedals makes their third CD gobs of fun. As on previous efforts, Dewese and James split the singing duties democratically. This time out, though, the high-gloss recording allows you to really savor James’ reedy, pouting vocals and Dewese’s Texas-fried version of Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake (right down to the stoner bayybeeee’s). The harmonies are dreamy; the lyrics satisfyingly full of disdainful women; and the title track gives Dinosaur Jr.’s ’90s anthem “Freak Scene” a run for its rockin’ money. Stay young, my foxy friends, you’re on to something good here.

Harp

The Foxymorons are not your run-of-the-mill popsters: The band’s constituents are Jerry James and David Dewese, two guys who grew up in the same small Texas town but now live hundreds of miles apart, write their songs long-distance, and almost never play live gigs or tour. And there’s the uber cool name, which manages to goof at least two ways (“foxy moron” itself qualifying as an oxymoron). The music on their third full-length release bifurcates neatly into two parts marked by who’s singing what. On one hand, there’s spare, slo-mo lo-fi, sometimes punctuated by noisy guitar bursts, and featuring James’ vocals. On the other, Dewese takes the mic for some near-Byrdsian folk-rock (complete with jangling Rickenbacker on the driving “Terror on the Tarmac”) and various flavors of more melodic, poppy material. It’s an atypical, if not exactly incongruous, sonic amalgam.

Sponic

Contrast lies at the heart of the Foxymorons’ appeal. This indie-pop-country duo has been at it for years, but one thing hasn’t changed: The lilting, intuitive banter between singing/songwriting team Jerry James and David Dewese.

Sending their respective contributions to each other through the mail (James in Austin, Texas and Dewese in Nashville) and playing nearly every instrument on the album, the Foxymorons have eked out a unique niche in the crowded Melodic Rock auditorium. Think of a Big Star cover band composed of members of Guided by Voices and Wilco, and you’re close.

Hesitation Eyes improves over past releases by honing the considerable talents of both members, making for their most cohesive, endlessly listenable effort yet. James possesses the raspier, more lethargic pipes, his songs dripping with a dusty, Malkmus-on-bourbon charm. Sounding like he just rolled out of bed, he amiably works his way through track such as “Harvard Hands” and “Between the Lines,” often bolstered by Dewese’s ultra-smooth, Lemonheads-meets-Smithereens backing vocals. Dewese, of course, leans toward the poppier side of the fence, occasionally stumbling into earnest territory with his gorgeous, soaring melodies. This isn’t necessarily a band thing, since the lyrics are typically intelligent and the delivery palatable.

The ratio of upbeat, bouncy numbers to bittersweet ballads is just about right; it’s clear the Foxymorons know how to sequence a great album and play to their respective strengths. The production is incredibly clean but immediate – a far cry from the occasional boombox-sounding jam on previous discs. Let’s hope they keep producing irresistible pop gems like this well into the future, and for a much wider audience.

Dallas Observer

In the Grand Critical Discussion of early-’90s albums, Teenage Fanclub’s Bandwagonesque tends to get the shaft. Musicologists are far more likely to slaver over Nirvana’s searing riffs while paying little note to TFC’s sugar-sharp harmonies, glorious hooks and Big Star revivalism. Not the Foxymorons. The Nashville/Mesquite duo’s third album, Hesitation Eyes, is a lovely tip-of-the-hat to the Glaswegian power poppers along with bands they influenced, from Summerteeth-era Wilco to Matthew Sweet. The dark and finely tuned songs are written, alternately and over a distance, by Jerry James and David Dewese, natives of Mesquite who met at church camp (Dewese now lives in Nashville). Songs like the title track are breezy, imminently listenable music for adults, but melancholy courses beneath the shimmering surface: “I’ve tried to make things fit, but they never do. I’ve tried to take the easy way. I’m still in love, do you love me, too?” James asks in a song called “I’m Still in Love.” Mixed by Matt Pence at Echolab Studios, Hesitation Eyes is an album about bittersweet endings, about the sting of nostalgia, about breakups and all that other bullshit. It isn’t hip or edgy or cool; it’s just genuine and a little bit heartbroken, which is far better anyway.