Foxygen: Seeing Other People - Album Review
An album that feels bloated despite only being 37 minutes.
In the years since the erratic ...And Star Power, Foxygen have made a goal to keep albums consistent. Whether that’s on their gloriously arranged Hang or their latest record, Seeing Other People, they have largely kept that promise. Their debut LP, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic, had a similar strategy, one based in deep 70s rock roots, a genre band members Jonathan Rado and Sam France clearly adore. We Are sounded like the Stones, and Seeing Other People sounds like pop. It’s a slow, drugged-out journey through Foxygen’s latest, and try as it might, it can’t escape the encroaching malaise.
Sam France’s double-Jeopardy vocals+lyrics dynamic kick things off on “Work.” His best work remains found in the quottables, which is beginning to read a little shallow at this point, and the purposely obtuse delivery of Hang remains in tact, rearing its head at the worst points of the track. The chorus, as France admits, needs work, and can’t be saved by an admission of responsibility. It’s groovy, but undermined by a need to show-off the band have carried since day one.
Seeing Other People follows in the trend of Hang and We Are with a brief tracklist, this time coming in at just 37 minutes. This means longer songs and less space for duds, the flaw that sunk Hang and made We Are as good an album as it was. Also present in Seeing Other People is the duo’s penchant for faux-dynamic song structures; it can’t be enough to do a song in changing time signatures, there need to be breakdowns, and lots of them. Most of the time, these come across as forced as when the Lemon Twigs are copying them, communicating the opposite of what the band likely intended. If they wanted to display their musical prowess, they would have made “Mona” a single.
A unified sound palette contributes to the feeling that the batch was thrown together, without much ambition: drums are crispy, guitars are chunky, and vocals rest on top of the mix, and even with nine tracks, the sound bleeds together. This comes to a head on the title track, “Livin’ A Lie,” “Flag at Half Mast” and “Conclusion.” They fumble along, without clear direction or any driving beat to warrant repeated listens: after the first minute, you’ve heard the whole track.
This is where Foxygen routinely show their faults; after the energy of the start has expired, and all that’s left is a half-baked attempt to live up to the grandeur of those first few tunes. Every piece of a winning formula is here, yet Foxygen still struggle to arrange their albums in a way that invites comparison to the artists they are so clearly in debt to.