The band's recent "Hang" is its most ambitious album yet complete with a string section, a portion of which will be part of the lineup at One Eyed Jacks tonight.
Foxygen mines its raw materials from '70s rock but uses it to make something beautifully irreverent and contemporary. On the new Hang, "Avalon" nakedly quotes ABBA without sounding even half as sanitary, perhaps because the quote sits next to Sam France and Jonathan Rado's take on The Kinks' music hall-era output. I hear Bowie, Rundgren, and countless others, but they make no effort to hide those sources. Instead, they make something beautifully irreverent, unruly and their own from the pieces.
The music would be less satisfying if Foxygen borrowed from hitmakers to try to make hits, but the records are never that simple. 2014’s … And Star Power presented two discs’ worth of ideas ranging from beautifully crafted pop to patience-testing sound stretches of sound. For Hang, the band employed a 40-piece string section and producer Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev) to dream big in a different way. “[T]hese songs discuss love, loss, death and disillusionment, themes so universal that they are often overused in music,” writes Mandy Freebairn at Consequence of Sound. “To reinvigorate them, then, France and Rado steer into the skid of the cliché, taking something old and making it their own, unafraid to veer into Pinterest board territory if it means it will get their point across. And the point of Hang is to feel something unapologetically.”
The thought at the center of the whole project is that the members of Foxygen are classic rock-era stars, extreme in all the good and bad ways. France and Rado’s obvious awareness of distance between their stance and their reality gives the band life. They know, we know, but we play along as long as Foxygen gives us reason to. So far, it has.
Foxygen plays One Eyed Jacks on Monday night.