By: Derek Jung
Four albums and five years into their musical careers, Foxygen continue to redefine their sound with every release. Their last album, the abysmal ...And Star Power, was especially disappointing because it was the followup to one of my favorite records of 2013, We are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic. Whereas We are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic was scatterbrained, an accurate portrayal of the band's live show, they balanced it with great songwriting and production. ...And Star Power lost all of that. On top of being incredibly boring from start to finish, the production was muddled and the songwriting was subpar. I was beginning to doubt that they'd be able to match anything near their sophomore release, however Hang proved me very, very wrong.
By the first ten seconds of the album, it's clear that there's been another drastic production shift for the band. Wearing his Mick Jagger influences on his chest, lead singer Sam France swaggers through album opener "Follow The Leader", which features a beautifully arranged orchestral solo and strings and horns throughout. Many songs on the album have a distinct showtune flair to them. "Avalon" is the first example of this on the album. I honestly expected a dancing interlude to break out at some point during the song. You can even hear some faint tapping in the background. It's a great effect that's executed tastefully.
Lead single "America" soars over everything the band has attempted previously in terms of pure compositional ambition. It's just the anthem that the listener needs in the middle of the album, and the adventure that awaits is exciting, with a number of unexpected twists and turns. The middle section bounces back and forth between soft, elegant instrumentation and pounding drums. There's even a classic swing section that almost made me spit out my drink laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. But that's where Foxygen thrives, in the ridiculous, and there's more of it on Hang than any of their albums to date. When French and Rado rein it in their crazy just enough, they're in the zone. That zone encompasses about two thirds of Hang. There are moments where they go off the deep end, like on "Trauma", which, besides being about two minutes too long, highlights French's vocal shortcomings with dramatic effect. It's pretty unlistenable. But maybe the point is to create trauma for the listener. That'd be deep. Beyond that, however, this is one of the few spots of poor songwriting on an otherwise brilliantly written and composed album.
By: Derek Jung
By: Derek Jung
As a music reviewer, I realize there are albums that are objectively good and objectively bad. When I come across an album that falls into the former category but is also one that I don't enjoy listening to, a myriad of conflicting feelings rise to the surface. I, as the author of this review, have to give my opinion about something, and that is very subjective. When I listen to The xx, I always appreciate their minimalist style. But at the same time, beyond "Intro" from their self-titled debut album, which has some of the most chilling guitar playing that I've heard in ages, their minimal sound is also one of the things that turns me off from them. Their vocals have always been mediocre, and their pull towards house music, a subgenre of electronic music that I have never enjoyed, only further pushes me away. All of that being said, one would expect this review to go one of two ways. Either I will be pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this album or I'll have my bias reinforced and continue to list The xx as one of the most overrated bands in the last decade. In reality, however, I've fallen somewhere in between. The battle between objective goodness and subjective tastes is in full force here.
As much as people harp on The xx being minimalist visionaries, the most promising song on this album, and shockingly the first single, is "Hold On". It's probably the most upbeat song on the album despite its slow moving verses. The biggest standout for me on this song is the brilliant Hall and Oates sample in the chorus breakdown that makes me bob my head every time I hear it. If more xx songs on the album were similarly styled, I would not complain at all. The problem is that the rest of the album is not like that. Slow-brooding, dreary angst abounds, with added atmospheric drums and the guitar noodling of Romy Madley Croft. Production on this album is especially fitting, as you can definitely imagine a foggy haze surrounding the band when they recorded. While I wasn't a huge fan of Derek xx's debut solo album "In Colour" that won critical acclaim in 2015, I will say that it's the direction that The xx should move in as a band. I'm certainly glad that some elements from that album have made their way into I See You. Otherwise, they're better off covering the Brambles Theme from Donkey Kong Country 2.
Who are we?
Derek Jung and Joseph Kathmann -- Just two ordinary guys that love talking about music. You can read more about us here.