Foxygen is a two-piece band who has been consistently putting out a weird blend of indie and classic rock for their last three albums. They’re famous for relaxed songs, singing about LA and their biggest hit “San Francisco.” But on their newest project, the duo have left the more summery sound for something more serious, both lyrically and musically.

There is no denying Hang is ambitious, and a complete change of pace from their past. Foxygen have existed for 10 years, starting when Jonathan Rado and Sam France were just 15 years old. In that time the pair have been turning out new music consistently, whether as LPs on a label or through several self-released singles. Although their discography has been relatively mixed, Hang appears to be an album in which the duo have tried to create a more unique sound, which seems to be a mix between Broadway and psychedelic rock, leaving nearly all indie-rock influences behind. The addition of a 40-piece orchestra, along with several guest appearances by instrumentalists, means there is a wider sound than on any previous release from the band.

This isn’t to say Hang is without any form of artistic borrowing. The album jumps between each influence without missing a step, and the confidence of the songwriting is assured, as if Foxygen know they’re writing to impress. There’s rare confidence present for an artist entering such new territory. But this also leads to lack of nuance on the album, with some songs seeming to trail off at the end with a lack of focus.

“On Lankershim” opens like an Elton John classic, before segwaying into something altogether more weird and wonderful. Choral vocals throughout and layered strings in the background create an epic sound, surprising at every musical shift. On the other hand, “Follow the Leader” starts sultry, with a funky beat that speaks straight to your soul. Crooning female vocals echo the lead singer as he skips through his lines with a I know a secret you don’t tone. Although the lyrics aren’t altogether that inspiring, the music still manages to be.

Aside from the classic rock borrowing, there seems to be a flip side where Rado and France seem to borrow excessively from pop and Broadway influences. There is no denying the decidedly ABBA-esque chorus of “Avalon” that then prances off into a joyful piano interlude.

These influences fall flat on several songs. “America” is a five minute track that flips between genres, and it just doesn’t work. The song doesn’t make sense — lyrically it’s trying to be some forward thinking revolutionary, but musically it’s stuck between swing and some mix of musical style pomp. This kind of confused style is ultimately what lets the album down. Instead of being interesting and new, it just ends up messy, and the songs quickly become forgettable due to such convolution.

Listening to Hang is still an experience of the extraordinary, with interesting divulges into the odd on nearly every song. But the sheer amount of influences makes the album a weird retro mash up of the new and old that only works brilliantly on a few odd occasions. The rest of the album just feels rehashed. Although worth a listen, Hang relies too heavily on its influences, and fails to capture something greater.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *