Foxygen shines with symphony orchestra on ‘Hang’

This article originally appeared in the Kentucky Kernel.

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Foxygen ‘Hang’ album art

For a group that moved past breakup and physical abuse allegations,  Foxygen doesn’t miss a beat on their third studio effort ‘Hang,’ which released on Jan. 20. The record, a follow-up to 2014’s disappointing ‘…And Star Power’ features a 40-person orchestra in the studio with duo Jonathan Rado and Sam France, allowing more room for their experimental blend of classic rock and pop that is sometimes even bordering on rock opera territory, to navigate.

Carrying the banner for ‘Hang’ is its lead track “Follow the Leader”, that features a relaxing intro on keys with a touch of horns before France begins his Bowie-esque singing, that can seem a bit overdone at times. the newly adapted orchestra is perfectly in sync. Foxygen illustrates that it’s not one part or instrument that makes the music intoxicating, but rather the collective sum of each instrument playing together in harmony.

While each of the eight tracks on ‘Hang’ is accompanied by the aforementioned orchestra, each tune still manages to have its own creative identity. ‘Hang’ does an exceptional job of gathering the band’s myriad of influences into one basket, leading to the group’s most polished and complete catalogue of music to date.

Another cornerstone of ‘Hang’ is the track “America”, a near six-minute composition relying heavily on contrasting instrumental refrains to illustrate the current divisiveness and internal battles many in the United States are facing amid the current political climate. About halfway through the song, a soft, peaceful piano starts up before being interrupted by a combative, percussive refrain. The two go back and forth for nearly a minute, building closer and closer to a boiling point as they continue to interject one another. To end, France steps back to the mic, uttering the lines “If you’re already there / then you’re already dead / if you’re living in America”.

‘Hang’ is bookended by three tracks with touches of rock opera reminiscing on the genre’s greats such as Meatloaf, or The Who’s legendary album “Tommy”. The tracks, “Upon a Hill”, “Trauma” and “Rise Up” combine the full force of the accompanying orchestra, mixed with France’s crooning voice, which rises and falls with the emotion radiating from the number’s intricate instrumentals.

While at times it seems that France tries to do too much with his voice, ‘Hang’ is a positive step forward to Foxygen’s progression as a band, who (finally) seems on its way to discovering a signature identity.

RATING: 8/10

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