Album Review: Foxygen – Hang by Nathan Brooks
Californian indie rock duo Foxygen is vocalist Sam France and multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Rado. That’s excluding the Flaming Lips’ Steven Drozd, Brian and Michael D’addario of the Lemon Twigs and the forty-piece orchestra who’ve also joined them for their latest studio album Hang.
Their previous studio effort – the sprawling …And Star Power – was regularly underwritten, poorly recorded and sloppily performed, never justifying its 82-minute length. Hang, however, barely exceeds 32-minutes, yet it packs significantly more of a punch.
Album Review: Foxygen – Hang
Hang is immaculately produced, starkly contrasting with the lo-fi approach of Foxygen’s previous work. The instruments, especially Drozd’s drums, are beautifully crisp. There’s also a newfound density provided by the orchestra, replacing Foxygen’s typically limited instrumentation with complexly textured, multi-layered arrangements. On a purely technical level, Hang is the best Foxygen have ever sounded. Additionally, there’s a return to the constantly evolving songwriting style of 2012’s Take the Kids of Broadway EP. The album rarely stays in one place for long, with tracks naturally progressing from melody to melody with logical ease.
Tonnes of genres are crammed into Hang. Baroque pop, soul, glam rock, country and prog grace the listener’s ear with surprising cohesion. The purveying influence of ‘70s artists like Lou Reed, David Bowie, Todd Rundgren and even Abba help hold everything together. Grand, theatrical melodies are another consistency. Foxygen are self-proclaimed “theatre nerds”, so much of Hang sounds straight out of Broadway. France’s vocals have always had this musical style, but they’ve only now got the orchestra to reinforce them. This may feel like indulgent bombast to some, especially on the track Avalon, but there’s enough self-awareness for me to forgive it.
“Squeezing masterful songwriting into eight gorgeously recorded tracks whilst continuing to showcase an unrivalled eclecticism, Foxygen firmly establish themselves as a relentless creative force on Hang.”
Lyrically, Hang is an intensely dark, romantic and surreal bombardment. Follow the Leader opens the album with cheery Summer of Love vibes, contrasting with the grim Mrs Adams where everyone appears to be barely clinging on for life. The politically charged America provides cynical satire, declaring “our heroes aren’t brave, they’ve just got nothing to lose because they’re all living in America”.
Later, a bizarre flamingo motif dominates the second half. France sees “flamingo trees of envy” on the fifth track and on Upon a Hill “flamingos dance on spaceships with black fire in their mouths”. On the penultimate track, France appears to reach the limits of human emotion as he wrestles with “the trauma”. Finally, Hang reaches its climactic final track Rise Up, in which France transcends motivational clichés by delivering them with unrestrained passion and spirit.
Unlike the thinly stretched …And Star Power, every second of Hang is utilised to its full potential. Although, whilst I generally believe less is more, it may be too compact. Not because it’s rushed or underdeveloped, but because it’s so good I want more. Squeezing masterful songwriting into eight gorgeously recorded tracks whilst continuing to showcase an unrivalled eclecticism, Foxygen firmly establish themselves as a relentless creative force on Hang.
The Breakdown | Album Review: Foxygen – Hang
Foxygen’s latest album Hang more than makes up for the mediocre 82 minutes of their previous album with 32 minutes of exquisitely recorded, tightly performed and superb songwriting.