Foxygen is an eccentric indie-psych music making duo made up of Sam France and Jonathan Rado, formed in California back in 2005 while the two were still in high school. The drama between France and Rado that has continually threatened the band throughout their career and continually bleeds into their music. Hang is perhaps the most theatrically dramatic, and maniacal album released by the band to date, yet France and Rado seem to find some clarity within their musical collaboration.
One of the most unique aspects of Hang is the wide variety of influences that are exhibited through the diversity of sounds. Sam France’s vocals are often compared to artists such as Lou Reed and Mick Jagger, and the tone of his voice mutates swiftly throughout the album. In “Follow The Leader,” France’s falsetto is reminiscent of The Bee Gees, and the raw power of France’s vocals in “America” is Bowie-esque, while on other tracks France’s shaky yet powerful baritone mimics Jim Morrison, or Elvis Presley.
France and Rado also ambitiously pursue distinct instrumentation throughout each track. “Follow The Leader” has a funky disco feel reminiscent of the late 70s. France seems to orchestrate a quarrel between the horns and strings, yelling “I know sometimes everyone wants to be someone else… so follow the leader, and the leader is you.”
“Avalon” on the other hand takes on a show-tuney vibe; it seems that a tap dance recording was even incorporated into the song. The next song on the album, “Mrs. Adams” sounds like a cross between the quirkiness of Electric Light Orchestra, and the convulsive tone of Mick Jagger, with hints of surfy guitar riffs thrown into the mix. Conversely, “On Lankershim” briefly imitates an Elton John piano ballad while quickly igniting into a thundering piece of Americana reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.
“America” is Foxygen’s masterpiece, and the height of the tracks on Hang. France and Rado utilize a 34 piece orchestra, giving the track immense girth and allowing the duo to extend their artistic experimentation further than they ever have before. The theatrical drama of the song paints a picture of the curtains being raised to France sitting beside a fireplace on a snowy winter day, singing in a shaky baritone: “Merry Christmas, to the pines.”, as he inhales theatrically through his nose. The song is as patriotic and beautiful as an eaglet taking flight for the first time. It transitions with the sporadic energy of a fledgling. Towards the beginning of the song France’s emotional baritone is like the eaglet approaching the edge of its nest; the flutes quiver as the young bird ruffles its feathers, and as France cries “America”, the bird soars into the sky with grace as it swoops down over the American heartland. Yet the eaglet is soon filled with intense anxiety as it realizes it is high above the Earth, and as the dramatic altercation between swaggering horns and the rapid and psychotic descension of pounding drums and uneasy strings ensues, the bird struggles to stay airborne, rapidly falling to earth. When this finally lets up we reach the most dramatic , theatrical, and melodically pleasing part of the song, where France sings: “If you’re already there, then you’re already dead, if you’re living in America, WOAH!”. At this point the eaglet realizes its true potential and power, catches the wind in its wings, and glides high above the Earth.
Foxygen’s Hang towers immensely over their previous album, And Star Power, which was clearly the runt of their discography. The tracks on And Star Power loitered like a balloon deflating for the 80 lengthy minutes that it droned on. In comparison, Hang is a Phoenix rising from the ashes and soaring to immense heights within the brief 32 minutes that the album triumphs. This ascension is mirrored by the closing track on the album, “Rise Up”, which draws lyrics from Wilson Rawls’ 1961 children’s novel, Where the Red Fern Grows. Sam France bawls “Rise up! See for yourself, you gotta pull yourself up from the fires of hell… Quite a few shall wonder, very few shall know, everybody wants to change the world.” The album lingers indefinitely at the close of the grand finale. Hang is awe-inspiring and magnificent; Foxygen cries out for listeners to change the world, yet omits exactly what about the world we should be changing and how exactly we should go about doing so… we just know that we should and ignorantly accept that we can out of blind regard to France’s final message: “And believe in yourself. And follow your own heart, if nothing else. And listen to your own dreams, nobody else’s will do, will do.” Hang encourages listeners to change themselves and their world, leaving it up to us to figure out how to do so, having the same effect as a vain New Year’s resolution.
Henry McDevitt (277)