by Lee Strubinger
The year is 2014, and apparently music has gone out of this world…
Starting early this calendar year, St. Vincent turned android and landed on planet Earth with a self-titled album meant to rule the world. Ty Segall’s latest album, the double LP “Manipulator,” came all the way from Jupiter as a business venture by a denim clad space alien named Big John.
Enter Foxygen, who released a critically acclaimed album last year called “We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic.” Since then, they’ve apparently launched into space with their newest release, the 24-track, 82-minute long double-album, “…And Star Power.”
Whether or not listeners are supposed to put the two albums together remains a mystery; however it would make for a great afternoon of music. This space odyssey is cut into four parts, each taking up a side of a double LP.
But this approach to music is hardly new for Foxygen. Rather, this album follows the vein of their 2007 album “Jurrassic Exxplosion Phillipic,” a 36-track epic.
The record was engineered by Jonathan Rado, one of the two founding members of Foxygen, at Dream Star, “with the UFOs flying around overhead,” according to the liner notes. This is not solely a Foxygen album, rather a collaboration with a group they call Star Power (A quick glance at who is credited: names like Tim Presley of White Fence, background noises from Of Montreal and The Flaming Lips, and the late Skip Spence's "Oar" album to name a few).
While the album could have benefitted from a solid edit, the album is the result of what they set out to create: "psych-ward folk, cartoon fantasia, songs that morph into each other, weaving in and out of the head like UFO radio transmission skullrush music," in their own words.
The album was recorded all over the country, particularly the vocals, in places like lead singer Sam France’s bedroom, the bathroom of the Beverly Hills Hotel in room 304, and the Chateau Marmont in room 78. This is only a peek into the strangeness of how the album was put together.
“…And Star Power” is a fantastical journey through music, trudging through the depths of noise and jams to arrive at some truly wonderful moments. The first of those moments is the song “How Can You Really?,” the first single from the album. It's piano heavy and about something complicated: loving and letting go.
“How can you really love someone who can’t love you / How can you love someone you can’t leave / It’s my fault, it’s your fault too / How ‘bout you go and find somebody who can love you.”
Another great moment on the album is the one-two punch of the opening songs of side two, or Star Power, SIDE TWO: The Paranoid Side: “I Don’t Have Anything/The Gate” and “Mattress Warehouse.” The former is a melancholy tune whose protagonist sounds defeated; the latter a rollicking diddy full of energy. The album really launches into space when “Cannibal Holocaust” spins around, sounding like a tune straight from the Ziggy Stardust era.
Despite all the psych jams and noise rock, this album has some really sad moments of heartbreak and toil and a longing for what has been lost. The band has been through a lot since the success of “Peace and Magic.” With tour cancellations, rumors of breaking up, and fighting with the crowds, it seems lucky for us that they’re still making music together.
Evidence of the band's inner turmoil can be found in the liner notes about the song “Coulda Been My Love.” Rado writes: “during the entire recording process, our only true heated argument was over this song.”
Whether or not that signifies their strength or fragility remains to be seen. May they make music for years to come.
“…And Star Power” is a great reflection of the digital age, interjections and strange sounds all over the album, hopping from one idea to the next, lacking attention span and latching on to a particular idea for short moments.
While Foxygen employs that mindset throughout, the record can also be considered a critique or a fight against that very thing. Considering that the album hops from multiple points and places in a single minute, it also begs to be listened to in one sitting. Eighty-two minutes is a precious commodity in 2014, and the likelihood most will spend their time listening to the album in-full is highly unlikely.
But that’s exactly what should be done when listening to the album. Not only for a good album, but to take a breather. Get a drink, if you want, and journey with Foxygen into some unknown place.
Foxygen will appear in Denver on Monday, October 20 at the Bluebird Theater. Wear your space suits.