The Californian duo Sam France and Jonathan Redo, collectively known as Foxygen have produced a work of ambition and scope in their new release Hang. Indeed, every song features a 40-plus-piece symphony orchestra arranged and conducted by Trey Pollard with additional arranging from Matthew E. White.
Album opener, ‘Follow the Leader’ is, paradoxically, redolent of both ELO and the mid 1970s New York Punk Rock scene. This proves to be no bad thing for as the lyric states, “I know everyone wants to be like someone else.” However, this group are by no means simple copyists as they bring their own swagger and style to the fore with a tune that shuffles and funks. The excellent musicianship is plain to hear with strings and brass punctuating the locked in groove. ‘Avalon’ follows and highlights a band unafraid to take a risk with a song that is jazzy and musical in a 1920s vain and looks at the unrealistic and idealised version of love that we can all, at times, chase.
‘Mrs Adams’ finds our protagonist in a Hollywood bar extolling the titular Mrs Adams to “take that gun out of your mouth.” The deep bassy undertone and lyrical theme are offset by the soulful music. Indeed, this is a song where the darkness of the lyrics is in stark contrast to the upbeat mood music but it all weirdly works together. ‘America’ has a filmic quality, so much so that it is nearly Mick Jagger singing for an MGM musical that never got made! It wishes us “A Merry Christmas from the pines”, but you get the sense that this is no carol but rather a lament for an America that is now lost.
The honky-tonk strut of ‘On Lankershim’ with its lap-steel guitar pining adds a rather surprising country flavour to proceedings. “It all but seems my lifetime dreams have ended”, reminding the listener that there is a darkness not far from the glossy Californian surface.The short jaunty romp of ‘Upon a Hill’ follows and gives way to the penultimate track ‘Trauma’. The vocals plead to the skies to be released from “this trauma” wondering “why are you people confused and abused?”
‘Rise up’ ends the album on a note of defiance and hope. Opening with dramatic kettle drums signals the intent. Midway through a blistering guitar solo carries the listener to the end. Overall this is an ambitious album which often juxtaposes dark lyrical themes with breezy orchestral manoeuvres and thrilling arrangement.