Monday, January 21, 2013

REVIEW: Foxygen - We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic

We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic is Foxygen's second record, and the first proper album from the San Francisco duo (Sam France, Jonathan Rado). And it's terrific, a real joyride through various rock and pop styles - you will see various sources throughout the music press try to name them all, and the fun part is that they are probably all correct:  Mick Jagger/early Stones, Lou Reed/VU, 60's Elvis, Dylan, Eric Burdon/Animals... and I'm just getting started.

Lead singer France sounds a bit like he's singing through a filter, but his voice comes through fine, if that makes any sense. To me, this record works fine as a pastiche of found old rock sounds, but it works better as something completely new - hence the title. Foxygen are not the 20th century ambassadors of peace and magic - hippies and acidheads - they are something more self-aware and their music is more consciously constructed, but no less fun for that.

To go through song-by-song would take quite a while, but suffice it to say that I really love the countrypolitan-meets-John Wesley Harding-era Dylan-meets Metamorphosis-era Stones touches of "No Destruction" (piano on the beat, gently chugging rhythm and softly sighed backing vocals on the choruses, to name a few). There are so many truly delightful touches to this record, they would be impossible to list... and I'm certain I'd miss some. In a way, I'm reminded of Paul's Boutique - and the fact that people are still cataloging the references and artistic debts in that sucker has in no way limited our 23 years of enjoyment.

It's impossible to resist the instant recall most of these songs cause - "San Francisco", with its Summer of Love vibe (and lyrical references), is an example. But it's also an example of how they're having fun::

I left my love in San Francisco
[female response vocal] "That's okay, I was bored anyway"
I left my love in a field
"That's okay, I was born in L.A."

Video for "San Francisco":

And "Shuggie" is a little masterpiece of psychedelic funk with some glam/soul touches - it engages in the kind of gear-shifting that characterized last year's Take The Kids Off Broadway, and ends with a sing-along chorus:

They've come a long way in less than a year, since Take The Kids first showed up - and this record is bursting with creativity and really wonderful sounds. It makes you want to allow yourself some optimism about what their next step may be - Foxygen certainly has left a lot of doors open for themselves, and demonstrated a ton of talent.

Foxygen website

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