Album: We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace & Magic
I’ve noticed a theme whenever I mention the band Foxygen to anyone; every time I bring it up, there’s a moment of confusion. Did I misspeak? Was there a typo in my text? The deliberate addition of an “f” to the front of the word “oxygen” has become a source of predictable amusement in my life. It’s worth mentioning this because for all the confusion the band’s name has generated, I don’t believe this is going to be the case for very long; the music Foxygen creates is startlingly catchy, fun, and breezy without being flippant or shallow. If modern incarnations of psychedelic 60s pop speak to you, this is the pop you’ve been waiting for.
We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace & Magic, Foxygen’s second and latest album, is a solid offering. Beginning with “In the Darkness,” the listener embarks on a journey; the instrumentation is light and playful, traveling through electronic distortion, piano, and horns that have just a whiff of the Beatles about them with ease. The male vocals contain a hint of lazy affectation that often comes across when listening to Los Angelenos, a mild deliberation in elocution that leads the listener on through a phrase as surely as verbs and nouns do. The composed bite of that song is a perfect introduction to the rest of the musical courses that follow.
The most memorable songs on the album are anecdotal, at times almost free association stories of life, love, and loss. “San Francisco” relates the story of a singer leaving his love behind in the city referred to in the song’s title, but light female vocals echo the reassurance that “That’s O.K., I was bored anyway.” This casual ending of a romance is matched with an upbeat flute, peppered with light drums and lyrics delivered in a childlike, singsong way; here love ending isn’t a tragedy, but just a turn of events that can occur. Love ending isn’t a point of life ending, as it can often be in the musical world, but the start of something new. “Shuggie” ends up being a complex piece that shifts from a 70s street groove to slower moments of reflection, to interludes reminiscent of a full 70s musical and back again. Far from coming across as schizophrenic, the music is married by consistent instrumentation and themes.
The songs, while largely based in 60s psychedelic pop, show some moments of interesting experimentation, flirting with punk-like vocals and video game-influenced themes (“We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace & Magic”), and even the snarling of engines to compliment the music in “Bowling Trophies”. There’s a richness here among the pop that’s rewarding to uncover, and a world of discovery among the often humorous verbal surrealism contained within the lyrics (“No Destruction”, “San Francisco”).
Foxygen’s musical showing in We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace & Magic is strong in its own right; just in time for Valentine’s Day, here are songs that celebrate life instead of mourning love, and do so with aplomb. And while I’m about to lose a consistent point of befuddlement among friends, we’re all going to gain some slick grooves to sing along to, and I’d be hard-pressed to ask for much more than that.