I think it’s a shame that not many people really know who Foxygen are. I’ll give you a bit of a debrief in case you’re not so sure. I was introduced to the band a few years ago and they’re weird, it’s true, but everyone loves a bit of weird. Foxygen are a two-man group hailing from Los Angeles: Sam France and Jonathon Rado. In four full length albums France and Rado have utilised the power of over 75 instruments and produced, in my opinion, some of the best experimental music.
The obvious new feature of their album released last week, Hang, is the 40-piece symphony orchestra. The whole album is theatrical and over the top. The jazzy, jaunty opening track Follow The Leader holds the line, “I know sometimes everyone wants to be someone else”. You could easily read this as a maxim of Foxygen’s style, borrowing sounds and influences from a myriad of places, throwing them together in a studio and coming out with a bizarre but brilliant track. In many places the album is reminiscent of the sort of music you would find in a Disney Pixar film like Monsters Inc because of the nimble musical interludes. In these places, in Avalon for example, the rest of the orchestra is stripped back allowing the different sections of the orchestra to shine separately until they join in with the vocals in a rousing homophony.
It’s fair to say Hang returns to the same vein of style as the band’s first two albums, Take The Kids Off Broadway and We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace & Magic. Maybe it’s just personal preference, but I felt something fell slightly off mark in their third album …And Star Power. Having produced an album a year by this point perhaps the hiatus of a few years before Hang gave Foxygen a chance to regroup and produce the impressive scale project of Hang.
However, one of the main issues with the newest album is the lyrics. They definitely lack creativity that drew me to Foxygen in the first place, with lines like, “I’m talking to my grandma who lost her arms in the war / The aliens and armory that bombed her cigar store” in No Destruction on their second album or, “Pop says something new, you’d better take it / I’ll take a look, take you home in a river out / I said, ‘don’t cry, it’s just spinach’”. Perhaps this is because of the emphasis on the orchestra and the new musical voices explored there instead. But songs like Trauma really lack any lyrical genius. In America, “If you’re already there / Then you’re already dead / If you’re living in America.”, reminds you of the state that America is in at the moment and draws poignancy in this way but this is one of a few moments in the album.
But I also feel like you can’t really criticise Foxygen too harshly because there is no one to properly compare them too. They’ve put themselves into their own category of experimental music and are still exploring avenues within it and I hope they keep doing so for a long time to come.