Album of the Week: Foxygen, 'Hang'

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Foxygen, 'Hang'
Foxygen, 'Hang' (Jagjaguwar)
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Foxygen rose to prominence at a speed usually reserved for bands in fictional rock biopics — fraught with chaos, acrimony, and broken limbs. At the center lies their music, a swirl of influences that can alternately conjure up psychedelia, country rock and '70s singer-songwriter. There's a paradox at the heart of Foxygen's music, and that's the question of its sincerity: is this good music, or is this a laboriously crafted attempt to sound like good music? In a spectrum that ranges from sincere genre emulation (e.g. Dr. Dog) to self-conscious pastiche (e.g. the Dukes of Stratosphear) to full-blown parody (e.g. Tim Heidecker), it's never truly apparent where Foxygen sit.

However sincere they may be, their newest album, Hang, certainly sounds terrific. The band enlisted a 40-piece orchestra to play on the new record, and it becomes apparent immediately that they were worth every penny. Hang harks back to the apparently bygone era of the 1960s when any song could be elevated by being cloaked in majestic instrumental arrangements, and even just on the criteria of being ear candy, the record is a success. There are plenty of not-too-subtle allusions to landmark records of the 1970s as well; the album occasionally takes on the tone of an Elton John scavenger hunt.

Vocalist Sam France is famous for a vocal delivery that can uncannily mimic classic-period Mick Jagger. On Hang, France goes for a full-throated theatrical style that reminds me of Scott Walker's work with the Walker Brothers: the only way to match arrangements this gaudy is with flagrantly bold vocals. Despite this, it's hard to get emotionally invested in any of the individual songs. For instance, for an album released on Inauguration Day, a song like "America" should be a memorable centerpiece, but it merely lumbers along with some casual references to "our heroes" and a lazy analogy to Hollywood. Even the lead single "Follow the Leader" fails to make much more than a superficial impact; having listened to both the record and the song for a few weeks, it's tough to remember any lyrical details from the song beyond the title.

As impressively-crafted as Hang is, I slot it closer to the category of "curio." I'm curious to see how — if at all — Foxygen grow into a sound of their own; for now, their music is interesting, but not enduring.

Resources


Foxygen - official site


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