STAFF PICK: Hang by Foxygen
I know I’m not alone in this sentiment: I’m a bit confused. After leaving We Are The 21st Centry Ambassadors of Peace And Love threadbare, Foxygen offered listeners 2014’s …And Star Power. Although the playful, somewhat laidback fun was still present, it seemed uninspired. While the former was a Bowie-esque psychedelic retro-rock ensemble, the latter seemed to fall flat. Come to think of it, lazy might be the best word for …And Star Power, a characteristic ironically suggested through the album’s artwork: a picture of the two bandmates in an old picture frame. More broadly, it seemed to obscure any sort of artistic vision; Foxygen was now a nebulous figure. That said, I couldn’t have guessed what would come next.
Enter: Hang. The album art foreshadowed a lot of what I’d soon hear: a rich and textured experience. This time, however, there was a definite sense of identity. Foxygen picked up the dusty Americana torch from 1967, right where Brian Wilson left it with his abandoned masterpiece, SMiLE. One sonic similarity is on the track ‘Avalon,’ in which a golden falsetto rings from the background of the chorus. Instead of taking a similar stylistic approach, Foxygen opted to emulate Brian’s lyrical collaborator, Van Dyke Parks (or so I speculate for the sake of comparison). To me, It’s a more accessible primer before listening to Parks’s Song Cycle. It goes without saying that this record resembles none of their previous half-hearted indie. Fans will be greeted with something much more bombastic: a baroque-pop musical. Make no mistake, this is a contrast. It’s a cinematic experience, an effort that is clearly the product of newfound ambition. One gets the feeling that they are aware of this creative wind in their sails, as their indulgences – specifically the Jagger-esque vocals – sometimes feel over-zealous.
Notwithstanding, Hang is Foxygen’s best album to date. They have crafted a sound that will hopefully sustain through their future efforts.