Foxygen – … And Star Power
Two 15 year-olds embarked on a journey in Westlake Village, California almost 10 years ago .Those teens, Sam France and Jonathan Rado, just wanted to play their instruments and hang out (more or less a reason to get stoned), which reflected their earlier works. The duo released a multitude of EP’s in their early career. Take the Kids Off Broadway was the EP that spurred them into the sphere of up an comers.
The Californians realized with some of their success meant they would have to start touring. Playing a live show meant they couldn’t be as chaotic; they needed supporting band mates to back them up (and you can’t teach the stoned vibes of two friends). Foxygen hit the recording studio again and put out We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic, a “pop-ier” album with more sense of form and regularity. They didn’t lose the 60’s psychedelic that drove them to start making music in the first place, in turn, it just became less spastically beautiful.
With the release of …And Star Power earlier last month the band has entered into some cosmic sphere that can’t really be pinned to one concrete place/genre/description (something Winston Niles Rumfoord surely can relate to). The announcement and release brings a great relief to the cult followers Foxygen’s gathered in the last few years. It seemed to some the band was headed for certain turmoil after several band members social media posts surfaced. Even more than just release a single album the band released a lengthy 24 song double album.
24 songs (82 minutes and 7 seconds) may seem daunting to make into a single project to capture a listeners attention, but right away “Star Power Airlines” prepares you for an astro-psychedelic intergalactic voyage. The beautiful voyage becomes hectic and unclear at points, but the whole sometimes can be more than just the sum of its parts
Side One, Part One: The Hits: With the single “Cosmic Vibrations” Foxygen demonstrates their ability to sit down and generate “earthy” songs many listeners of different preferences can relate and boogie around to in their bedrooms (The Hits). “How Can You Really” and “Coulda Been My Love” reflect the more structurally “poppy” tracks off Peace and Magic and really hooks you in.
Side One, Part Two: Star Power Suite: The album starts to leave Earth’s stratosphere when it comes to what and how a song should be comprised. “Star Power I: Overture” gently lulls the ears with a piano harmony reminiscent of Elton John or Billy Joel. By “Star Power III: What Are We Good For”, you feel the engines revving up and the atmosphere getting more spacey. The track at parts sounds like LCD Soundsystems “Losing My Edge” in the fact the lyrics are simply being said and not sung, giving it a futuristic space tone.
Side Two: The Paranoid Side: In an article with Consequence of Sound, Rado remarked ‘It starts out as a classic Foxygen album, and then it’s gradually taken over by this band called Star Power. They’re from space. Maybe. I don’t know. It’s a loose concept.” This is the point where songs start to get dissonant and start orbiting the planetary entities of our solar system and Star Power takes over. “Flowers” takes the listener seemingly back in time to frolic through a strawberry field owned by four fellows from Liverpool. Yet, tracks like “Cannibal Holocaust”, “Hot Summer”, and “666” throw an overwhelming amount of layers of sounds and samples at the listener making it hard to pin point a concrete feel of the songs.
Side Three: Scream: The Journey Through Hell: Everything starts to hit the fan and go bat shit crazy. Everything comfortable and familiar is lost, the albums takes solace outside milkway, and finds itself in different cosmic spaces all at once. “Can’t Contextualize My Mind” and the paired songs “Cold Winter/ Freedom” and “Freedom II” feel as if the brain of a schizophrenic split open and released itself into the songs. Random samples and dissonant instrumentation make the songs difficult to comprehend.
Side Four: Hang on To Love: Touching into something profound simple and universal, “Everyone Needs Love” has a happier and more consistent harmonic tone. Yet, the ending track “Hang” hits a deeper more sullen not to end. Hearing “That you left without saying goodbye/ And you know it’s not the same now” the feels set in on how powerful love can be.
…And Star Power hits peaks and valleys in between gracefully chaotic tracks, drawing on past styles while trying to revert back to some of their roots. Not every track is pure gold, but one of the more amazing things about the album is the titling of each side (or part of each side) and how looking at every one piece fit just as you picture it in your head.