My sister moved to Brooklyn in 2013, and that’s the first time I heard Foxygen. Their music was straight outta the Donavan/Rolling Stones school of sound, so obviously they were made for me. Four years later, I was pulled back into the Foxygen fandom (with much excitement) when they released their album, Hang, in early 2017. Straying from their typical Mick Jagger/Bob Dylan-type sound, this brief but deep album involved the most precise work of the musical duo, Sam France and Jonathan Rado. With complex orchestration (I mean, these songs even feature a HARP), genre-crossing melodies and vocals, and more themes than the last book report I wrote, Hangliterally left me in tears and overwhelmed with the best feelings.
Though different from their previous albums, Foxygen’s Hang is still infused with vast musical influences. Songs like “Avalon” and “Mrs. Adams” are a nod to 70s-rock-verging-on-disco with honky Elton John pianos and strings, and “On Lankershim” has the twang of Loretta Lynn’s country music with saloon style piano morphing into a Springsteen-esque sax melody with gruff and confident vocals. Though these upbeat songs make you wanna bust out some moves on a color block dance floor, Foxygen manages to delve into deeper themes through these catchy tunes. (Mrs. Adams has a gun in her mouth, Avalon can also be the land of nasty weather, and there’s something that Sam just “can’t seem to figure out” about Lankershim Blvd). As we hear the conflicts in these songs, fittingly, the album fades into “Trauma,” a very Diamond Dogs inspired song, with dark undertones both sonically and thematically. Sam mimics Bowie’s velvet voice and the urgency of his cries, allowing Hang to settle into an epic, rock opera sound to finish out the album.
Hang presents a certain push and pull, involving both Foxygen’s musical composition and our own emotions as listeners. “On Lankershim” deals with how easy it is to give up, especially during hard times and personal rough patches. Feeling discouraged or abused, it’s so much easier to “just walk away” from failures and weaknesses than it is to make decisions, stick around and do something. But “Rise Up” ends the album in an inspiring fury to combat feelings of apathy and discouragement. And suddenly, we remember why we listen to music in the first place; because it gives us that fiery feeling, that warm passion that reminds us what it’s like to feel something REAL, even in the roughest of times. “Rise Up” motivates us to finally do something with all the angst or anger that we’ve felt, to put aside defeat or anxiety and “start doing all the hard things and believe in yourself.”
The centerpiece of the album, “America,” relates especially to our current culture and the feelings we have in this confusing time. This five and a half minute track makes its biggest statements, not through words, but through complex instrumentals. A smooth, light wind ensemble riff competes with an aggressive piano/low horn melody that sounds like the theme of a Disney villain, creating a musical conversation filled with tension. Like this song, America battles through its own conflicts, and, likewise, we are personally forced to face our own. This album is CHARGED with opposites: anxiety vs ease, urgency vs apathy, good vs evil. These clashing emotions allow us to dig for our own conflicting feelings, bringing everything strange or curious that we’ve ever felt to the surface for examination.
I find myself going back over and over again to tie certain pieces of Hang together. I’m continuously drawing lines between the songs on the album, themes in my own life, conflicts in the world around us. Foxygen is my oxygen. I’m literally living and breathing this album right now. It’s everything I can listen to no matter what I’m doing. In times of doubt (or any time really), this is the kind of music we need. The album ends with the line, “everybody wants to change the world.” This is our call to do it.
written by ALEXANDRA PASQUARELLI