Foxygen (photo by Cara Robbins, PR)
Welcome to the world according to Foxygen. Fasten your seat belt; it’s going to be a wild ride. The outlandish California duo of vocalist Sam France and multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Rado have bestowed upon us a fourth official album, called Hang. With eight songs clocking in at a concise 32:30, Hang appears, on the surface, to be a tight, focused album, unlike the 24-track, 82-minute behemoth that was 2014’s …And Star Power.
But, don’t be deceived by Hang's compact length. In every way, this album is a larger-than-life exhibition of epic proportions. France and Rado take us on a journey through almost every possible stylistic twist and turn of the past century. Often, it happens within one song, like “Avalon”, which wildly jumps from early Elton John to vintage swing, Dixieland, and “Rocky Horror Picture Show” kitsch, with dashes of an Abba-esque ballroom atmosphere. Oh, and don’t forget the tap dancing, courtesy of the Lemon Twigs’ Michael D’Addario.
“America” twists copious amounts of over-the-top melodrama with enough Broadway musical excess to fill ten theatres. It moves in so many directions and through so many changes, you’ll need to stop to catch your breath—or take a tranquilizer. Even a short selection like “Upon A Hill” packs an admirable amount of changes and styles into a minute and a half. The opening song, “Follow The Leader,” might be the most grounded song on the album, locking into a soulful ‘70s pop groove and staying there.
Lyrically, the songs on Hang get as wild and occasionally unhinged as the music. “America” combines numerous sentiments into lines like: “Merry Christmas from the pines/Hallelujah, Amen.” The album’s finale, “Rise Up,” closes with the random observation: “It’s not hard to tell it’s Christmas at the Flamingo Hotel.” It’s one of the numerous uses of the word "flamingo" on the album.
It might sound like there are numerous vocalists on Hang, but it is just France, who is a singer capable of quickly switching personas in a flash. Throughout the album, France channels the likes of David Bowie, Rufus Wainwright, Peter Hammill (listen to “Trauma”), Prince, Nick Cave and Bryan Ferry with precision. There is so much happening musically on Hang, that expecting guitarist, bassist, keyboardist and percussionist Rado to do all the heavy lifting is unreasonable. That’s where the talents of the Flaming Lips’ Steven Drozd, the Lemon Twigs' Brian and Michael D’Addario, and an orchestra of nearly 40 musicians (arrangements written and conducted by Trey Pollard with Matthew E. White) come in.
Interestingly, Hang is the first album that Foxygen recorded in a professional recording studio. With Hang, Foxygen have created a work blending parodies and homages into a lavish, tongue-in-cheek production that is exquisitely executed with ease. It's about as over-the-top as an album can get, and that’s the goal.