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After the total failure of their previous album and experimental venture …And Star Power, this new LP Hang could have seen the band going two different directions. Thankfully, they executed this new release with renewed focus and energy, creating something with some serious swagger and theatrical wistfulness.
Foxygen’s previous release …And Star Power was received poorly. It seemed like the Californian duo had gone off the rails a bit in producing an hour and twenty-minute mess of badly produced and performed songs. This new album, Hang, is a vast improvement. If Hang started off as a blank canvas, then Foxygen has thrown everything at it with some serious ambition.
One part of this ambition is found in the instrumentation. One of the major developments in style on this LP is the increasing use of orchestration, to great effect. Strings and horns turn bare tunes into grandiose songs with a strong theatrical tone. Listening to Hang is a very immediate experience, taking you one way and then another. For instance, the cool, feel-good vibe of Follow the Leader is succeeded by Avalon, a quaint song with which halfway through descends into straight jazz. Musical ideas are so packed in on this record and the instruments so diverse it almost sounds like prog rock at some points, as towards the end of the song Mrs. Adams. The busy nature of the sound and the wide dynamic range gives the album its theatrical feeling.
It is hard to discuss this album without feeling the urge to raise the obvious musical debt it owes to the past. The orchestrated pop rock style is very similar to the Rolling Stones or The Kinks during their mid-sixties baroque pop phases. Add a splash of Bowie and a dash of Lou Reed too. This is particularly the case with Sam France’s vocal delivery. The swagger of his voice adds to the theatrical effect of the album but it does make it sound like he’s attempting to do a Mick Jagger impression.
So is this album derivative? Probably, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. It owes a lot to the 60s baroque pop sound but Foxygen really make it their own and that is what counts. It feels complete in a way that previous albums haven’t, the lyrics of love and discontent combine with the style to unite the songs on the LP. Foxygen’s songwriting is great and Hang is an immensely enjoyable album where you really get the sense that the two musicians are really having fun in the studio.