With Hang, Foxygen take their sound in a somewhat more conventional direction – their fourth studio album is an experiment (a successful one) in the stylings of baroque pop, glam, and art rock. Hang is an album of rising tensions, building momentum, and sudden, intense release. Despite only coming in at a half an hour long with a short eight song tracklist, each song is full of energy and suspense – a powerful combination.
Opening track Follow the Leader starts subtle, but within seconds lush layers of string and horn orchestration fill in the gaps. There are few light moments on Hang – the Foxygen duo of Sam France and Jonathan Rado ensure that every song is full of catchy instrumentation and glammy thickness. Tracks that begin as what seems like subdued piano ballads – such as Avalon and On Lankershim – quickly evolve into landscapes of noise. But it’s far from the rough, dreamy noise of shoegaze or dream pop, it’s layers upon layers of orchestration and composition that climb and swell continuously.
Sam France’s off kilter vocals work wonders for this album – his croons and wails complement the production perfectly. Often they spar with one another, vocals trading places for scenes where the strings take the stage, while brass hits fight to fill in the mix. This description sounds abrasive, but none of Hang’s eight tracks even come close to being overbearing or coarse.
Hang is rife with catchy hooks and memorable riffs – owing equally to the lead vocals and the beautiful instrumentation. Interplay between France’s vocals and the backing is key – on tracks like Mrs. Adams and Trauma, choruses grows in intensity as strings swell both beneath and above the vocals. Few riffs will fade away from your mind quickly, every instrument contributing to add weight to the strength of this album’s composition.
Often, Foxygen delve out of this glam rock/baroque pop comfort zone and explore more experimental ideas. The short track Upon a Hill launches into a Zappa-esque carnivale tune, rising and rising until its abrupt and satisfying conclusion amidst a brass chorus. Where Hang could easily reuse a hook, bridge, or leitmotif from earlier in a track, the duo instead innovate and consistently bring forth new musical ideas to the table. None of these additions are musically groundbreaking or unorthodox in terms of the glam and baroque styled context of the album – but they help keep listeners on their toes and give the songs renewed freshness.
Highlight track America is one of Hang’s standout moments. This song is ever-evolving, relentless in its new ideas, almost, but never moving too quickly onwards before the audience can swallow what its just been hit with. Ballady sections of vocal crooning open the track, crashing into moody art rock lamentations, before suddenly moving onto instrumental bridges of big band jazz. America mourns its namesake; Foxygen mourns America, Hollywood, and the free world, swelling in intensity and culminating in another beautiful breakdown.
Foxygen’s Hang is one of 2017’s first truly stellar albums; for the 21st century, the duo prove that glam rock is not dead. Taking art rock and baroque pop in new directions, this album is far from forgettable, with its landscapes of lush goodness becoming undeniable earworms.