When I consider the value of concept albums or double discs, I get excited in theory by the wealth of material that comes at the price of a few extra dollars. But when I press play and sit back, I find myself checking the cell phone for the time, ostensibly, before I end up down the rabbit-hole of social media distraction, winding up missing half of the record. It’s welcome news, then, that Foxygen’s latest LP, …And Star Power, is packed with hooks (albeit unfinished, spontaneous ones) that suit the ADHD personality well.
Foxygen, comprising of Jonathan Rado and Sam France, has been one of the more hyped indie rock bands since releasing their sophomore album, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, last year. Singles included the psychedelic “Shuggie”, which features some amusingly sad, disjointed lines being delivered to an anonymous beloved (“But you don’t love me. That’s news to me.”), and “No Destruction”, a blue number that doesn’t lack spurts of poignancy in the song-writing as well (“There’s no need to be an asshole. You’re not in Brooklyn anymore.”). This knack for whipping out petulant lines about love is present and in full force on Vol. I of …And Star Power, aptly titled “The Hits and Star Power Suite”.
“Coulda Been My Love” is a soulful, gentle piano melody made up of groovy falsetto harmonies. “How Can You Really” is also mild on the ears, even with horns peeping in, and it purposely steers away from a passionate delivery for an introverted style in vocal delivery and sonic turndown. “You & I” is an especially adolescent song, with France singing, “If you don’t love me, how come you never say it to my face?” But it’s an acoustic number with an affectionate sense of humour about self-pity.
With a runtime of eighty-five minutes, a lot of the album is taken up by one-minute, two-minute ditties that are extravagant montages packing an imaginative punch – the four songs that make up the “Star Power” series at the end of Vol. I one are evocative, and, taken as a whole, form a substantial narrative to sink your teeth into. “Wally” Farm”, on Vol. II: “The Paranoid Side”, is a dotty frolic through space. With discordant, loopy strings manipulated as if by a carny, “Wally’s Farm” is a short instrumental piece with an unnerving mood of cheeriness that’s, at any moment, about to unravel. Another short-lived tune is “Hot Summer”, a kooky, ramped up ode to organs.
These vignettes also give off the impression that …And Star Power isn’t thought-through evenly enough at times. “666” has an infantile shouting chant that’s not terribly endearing or remarkable (“Six is the devil, seven is heaven, and eight’s all right.”). And while “I Don’t Have Anything/The Gate” is a song with four solid minutes behind it, France is, more or less, reading off someone’s tweet when he sings, “I bought some cereal, but I forgot to buy milk.”
Vol. III, “Scream: Journey Through Hell”, contains, shockingly, loud and ferocious tracks. “Cold Winter/Freedom”, at six minutes long, is two songs stitched together, with a razor-sharp drone that turns on its heels into a jam session. Meanwhile “Talk” takes random shouting to new banshee levels. Vol. IV, “Hang on To Love”, the last section, has just two tracks, and they are soaring melodies. “Everyone Needs Love” needs all of its six minutes and forty-five seconds to transition from a straightforward, heartfelt rouser to pristine, virginal pop to an electric guitar solo finale.
Sporadic by design, …And Star Power is chaotic and mischievous in execution, and it’s how a tumultuous band like Foxygen works best.