By Justin Cudahy, Staff Writer
Key Tracks: “Follow the Leader,” “America,” “On Lankershim”
Foxygen has been in and out of the indie rock scene for the last few years, despite having a farewell tour back in 2015. Marked by scandal and frequent onstage meltdowns, the fate of the duo, made up of Sam France and Jonathan Rado was left up in the air for people. That question was finally answered when the group released Hang, their fifth studio album, last week. While the vocal part of the album is mediocre, listeners can expect to hear some immensely powerful (and catchy!) instrumental sections combined with various music genres and styles that overall does enough to put Foxygen back on track.
The eight track album clocks in at 32 minutes, a huge difference compared to their last album …And Star Power in 2014, which composed of 24 tracks, totaling an hour and 21 minutes. Hang kicks things off on a high note with “Follow the Leader,” a strong opener that establishes what kind of album this is going to be. At first, it may sound like it’s an R&B track, but that immediately changes as the song shifts styles and sounds throughout, switching to rock, as well as pop, later on, finally being accompanied by a jazz-like chorus.
While it’s typically risky for bands to play around with different genres like that, Foxygen succeeds in doing so. Each of the eight tracks is accompanied by a 40-person orchestra that beautifully enhances each song, along with the sounds of clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, marimba, and a piano that creates melodies reminiscent to that of Elton John and Billy Joel. Tempos, key signatures, and rhythms can change on a dime at any point during the songs, quickly going from a minor key that creates a sense of sadness and isolation into an uppity and cheerful sound that sounds like something straight out of a Disney movie soundtrack. “America” pulls this off perfectly, making this one of the best songs on the album.
While the instrumental sections are the best, this largely outweighs the other important part of the album: the vocals. That’s not to say Sam France is a poor singer, but many times throughout the album it felt as if the singing was out of place. Instrumental sequences are interrupted with rather confusing lyrics and vocalizing that can catch listeners off guard and rather disappointed. Along with that, songs such as “Mrs. Adams” and “Trauma” feel way too dragged out at times while the 97-second track, “Upon a Hill,” makes people feel cheated.
Hang takes every popular style and sound from modern day music and successfully applies it to this album. Despite its shaky vocals, the Broadway-esque instrumentals do enough to label this as a strong album from the duo.