by Sarah Nove ‘20
Indie Rock band Foxygen reinvented their sound once again with their newest album, “Seeing Other People,” released in late April. Channeling glam rock icons, the musical duo, composed of vocalist Sam France and one-man orchestra Jonathan Rado, captured the ‘70s sound, while still infusing their own style into this rock opera.
The album itself tells the story of a crumbling couple as they decide to “see other people.” The simple narrative gives focus to the album, but is not especially intriguing. Though the concept is unremarkable, the unusual music itself is anything but. Each track is immaculately produced, with a multitude of samples and instrumentals that contrast each other without feeling chaotic. Echoing vocals and binaural synths compliment the melody well, making for a trippy experience that listeners won’t soon forget.
The lyrics are straightforward and self-aware; France even taunts his ex-partner in the opening track, “Work,” explaining “I’ll be leaving now / I gotta get to work on the chorus.” My personal favorite example of this lyricism can be found in the chorus of “Face the Facts,” when France sings “you could go forward but you can’t go back.” As the song progresses, the amount of distortion increases, climbing to the point where the end of the song sounds completely different from the beginning, so that the song itself cannot go back to how it began. The witty yet biting lyrics, as well as the experimental beats, set the album apart from the over-saturated genre of break-up music.
Songs like “Living a Lie” and “News” explore a cinematic approach through the inclusion of more traditional instrumentals, whereas tracks like “The Thing Is” and the titular “Seeing Other People” rely more heavily on funky keyboard motifs and bouncy percussion. Though these songs vary in tone, the constant concept and retro beats maintain a coherent theme that threads each track together.
However, the vocals fall flat at times, failing to match the variation of Rado’s instrumentals. Vocal distortion is interesting, but after a while, it becomes grating. It almost feels as though the weird, psychedelic vocals featured in Foxygen’s previous works have been replaced by bland babbling. Additionally, the instrumentals often overshadow France’s voice, creating a cacophonous imbalance. This is not to say that the instrumentals are unimpressive––they’re quite the opposite––but, when the vocals do not meet the same level of quality, the complexity of the backing tracks highlight France’s shortcomings on this album.
Foxygen’s recent incarnation feels like an echo of the band’s former accomplishments, but it’s not a failure. Foxygen had big shoes to fill after the success of their previous albums, and, despite some flaws, the duo still demonstrated obvious talent, which I hope to see again on future albums.