Last October Foxygen delivered what would come to be my favorite performance of CMJ 2012. The band played in a tiny Chinese restaurant located on Canal Street and left quite the impression. Their set was an exuberant mix of The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and Bowie, that exploded into the night and left me wholeheartedly impressed. Last year they released the solid Take The Kids Off Broadway EP, which is an excellent release on its own, but their debut album We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic is the fully formed next step that should propel these guys to the next level.
The band’s career was propelled with the help of Richard Swift, after the duo (Sam France and Johnathan Rado) gave him a demo after one of his own shows. Swift ended up loving their work so much he produced their EP and went on to help them with their debut effort. He helps tie together everything that Foxygen bring to the table.
For young-twenty-somethings, Foxygen amazingly bring forward the influence of 60s/70s rock & roll and creates a reminiscent sound, without crossing the line of copycat. It’s impossible not to hear such influences on the poignant “No Destruction”, a song so good that the rest of the rock world should take note. France’s vocal delivery has a Mick Jagger swagger to it that also creates its own unique weird shape that he makes his own. Foxygen have a way with spinning these classic rock sounds with their own psych-elements that make it into its own brand. It’s calm and collected one second, and then it switches gears just when you least expect it, while seemingly sounding reserved. Foxygen are able to shape-shift musically at any given moment. You can hear this on the funky-cool “Oh Yeah”, or album opener “In The Darkness.”
I don’t think it can be contested that the bands finest moment to date is “San Francisco.” Coming to life with France’s compelling vocal delivery that strives on a confident groove that borders between singing and sing-talking. The guys are in their wheelhouse with a classic sounding pop melody that is so old school it’s amazing to think that this is coming out in 2013.
There’s not just one method of rock music that Foxygen use to succession. The driving psych-rock grooves take absolute flight on the title track “We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic”, until the last 40 seconds stun you with a breathtaking little fade out that seemingly appeared out of no where but would make the song seem bare and incomplete without. It’s not just the fact that these guys can sling chugging rockers one minute, touch over with glam rock, while soon offering a psychedelic spin of pop-rock. It’s also the lyrics and delivery of Sam France, as well as his perspective. Who else sings about someone’s daughter wearing “rhinoceros shaped earrings in her ears” on “Shuggie” or calling Brooklyn out, “There’s no need to be an asshole, you’re not in Brooklyn anymore.” France sells it with his delivery, which is one of the many parts at play in Foxygen’s arsenal.
No bad track or wasted minute can be found in the brisk 36 minutes that it takes the breeze by the album. Foxygen are in an absolute groove from start to finish pumping out one of the finest rock albums you will hear all year. They take elements of the past and make them very much in the present. Foxygen are just getting started, but they have already left their mark.