Sam France and Jonathan Rado are Foxygen –a dynamic duo of high school rockers who never broke up. Brotherly musicians with an undying passion and an intense creative drive. Noted for their psychedelia passion; the indie pop duo has, more often than not, comfortably fallen into this habit of paying homage to their psychedelic predecessors. Make no mistake, Foxygen has built their career on some unique musical antics –but always with a sense of faithfulness.
And so it makes sense that Foxygen returned to the 70’s with Hang. The album plays out like a montage of American music between 1955 and 1975 –albeit with a bit too much Bowie –Foxygen practically resurrected Bowie to make their tribute of a rock opera. Worse off the songs stand out as forgettable –blending into the larger whole of the album, and then again dissolving any sense of freshness or intrigue into all that which already exists. If the band really wanted to do the 70’s some justice, perhaps they should have stuck with the funky and soulful rather than boisterous and flamboyant.
“Follow The Leader” is probably the most stunning opening to an album in quite some time. The song begins with some groovy keys, and horns that welcome in the ballad’s energetic but soulful vocals. The track progresses with some incredible sound –the band comes across like some genuine rockstars while simultaneously managing to pull off a compelling soul-listen. It’s a heavy promise to begin but Foxygen carries through. “Avalon,” follows with some rag keys and a chorus that could carry a Broadway show. A jazzy riff closes the song out and pushes the wild album forward.
“America,” is the first signs that things are going wrong, really wrong. Perhaps it’s the ominous beginning, the eerie strings and dissonance. Maybe it’s the baritone Disney vocals that transition into an awkward and over-thematic rock-opera. More than likely, it’s just that everything is really beginning to sound similar. Circus-like, a bit of an unfair snapshot of the 70’s, and again, a bit too Bowie. As the song went onward with a Looney-Tunes soundtrack, I grew tired of listening –sure it’s unique for these days, but it’s just not that interesting –clamorous and pointless. As the album progresses, it seems as if Foxygen is acting, and it becomes a bit too much to deal with.
“On Lankershim,” threatens sanity with an insincere country guitar. The following track, “Upon A Hill,” busts out the wild vocals that crave a stage to run wild upon. The backing instrumentation carves out an equally thematically and overdone path. The concept is clear but not only has it been done, Foxygen just makes it a bit too much so. “Trauma,” brings the mood down and the drama up. The lamenting tune is driven by some deep horns, backing keys, and a rambunctious percussion. “Everyone has their own trauma,” makes for a lackluster line of lyric that almost doesn’t seem fair in the context of Hang. Overall, it’s just a bit much to trudge through.
Admittedly, as tiring as Hang is to listen to, there was an odd effect where each listen provoked this profane itch. The album demanded my attention at all times and constantly seduced me. Foxygen’s antics don’t hold up this time, the band took a fantastic premise and crashed it, but the duo did well to hire an orchestra for this album. More often than not, I found myself a bit taken back by just how well every little part was put together. Sure the songs aren’t that intricate, but the duo went above in beyond in representing several styles with a Foxygen twist, through the unlikely addition of a fourty-piece symphony. It’s remarkable and sort of a welcome for indie music these days.
Whether Hang goes down in history as an indie success or a forgettable flop, it will at very least always have the orchestra going for it. Frankly, the orchestra absolutely saves Hang. While I rarely found myself actually disliking the album (aside from feeling as if the dead horse was getting some unfair attention these days), it was usually the instrumental espousing that sold me.
Hang isn’t quite the typical indie album nor the typical Foxygen album, but the duo did some amazing composing and with the extra help of some handy musicians, they made something remarkable. It wouldn’t make sense to suggest Hang all willy-nilly. It’s playful, but not too playful. It’s loud and boisterous and at times even beautiful, but usually a bit too thematic for real life –it’s hard to imagine the music not destined for a theatrical display. Hang is unique. While Foxygen’s execution wasn’t incredibly inspiring, it’s something to shake 2017 up early. Overall, an interesting addition for a new year of music.