I missed Foxygen’s last show in town: Some proclaimed it amazing; others, a joke. One friend threaded the needle, reporting that frontman Sam France came out blazing across the stage so intensely that you knew it couldn’t last. That description echoed while I listened to Hang, a masterful album that somehow feels twice as long as its 32 minutes. Foxygen establishes the kitchen-sink approach on leadoff track “Follow the Leader”; its ’70s schlock excess sounds like a “Friday Night Movie” theme metastasizing into an actual movie as a horn section, backup chorus and two string-laden interludes support France in a Mick Jagger guise. “Avalon” sandwiches a glammy section between a self-consciously corny show tune opening and conclusion, while “Mrs. Adams” juxtaposes prog and lounge jazz. There are exhilarating moments on Hang, and the Bruce-meets-Elton “On Lankershim” works better than a lot of Bruce and Elton songs. But whereas other retro savants like King Khan and Ween clearly want you to throw down, Foxygen feels more like spectacle—you’re watching them party. Not that Hang isn’t good, but it’s more big than good. It’s like a turducken.
Kid Koala feat.
Music to Draw to: Satellite
(Arts & Crafts)
At the other end of the spectrum, we have the new Kid Koala album. Né Eric San, Kid Koala has piled up a deceptively extensive discography since his 2000 debut, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. While this is only his second official album in 10 years, he’s also released a mixtape, albums with supergroups Deltron 3030 and The Slew, and Space Cadet, a graphic novel with a soundtrack. San extends the yearning themes and minimal aesthetics of Space Cadet on Music to Draw to: Satellite, a concept album about “lovers separated by a one-way space mission to Mars.” San eschews his usual turntablism and sampling to construct a melancholy but beautiful soundscape out of keyboards, guitars and effects. Iceland’s Emiliana Torrini adds ethereal, mournful vocals to seven of the 18 tracks, though the lyrics are usually more suggestive than narrative, and actually less effective when more explicit, as on “Satellite” and “The Darkest Day.” Anyway, the musical settings are suggestive and compassionate enough on their own, as on the gently glittering “The Hubble Constant,” the elegiac “Nightfall” and the triptych of songs titled “Transmission.” A quiet triumph.
Apocalipstick (Secretly Canadian)
Nineteen-year-old Clem Creevy is an L.A. kid who has modeled and acted (she fronts the fictional band in “Transparent”). Her band, Cherry Glazerr, served notice with Haxel Princess, a fast-and-loose dose of garage released by scruffy L.A. label Burger three years ago. Creevy is the lone holdover from that lineup, and Apocalipstick comes to us via the higher-profile label Secretly Canadian, produced by industry veteran Joe Chiccarelli (Alanis Morissette, The Strokes). By outward appearances, Apocalipstick is a bid for a breakout, and that’s what it sounds like, too. There’s a high-stakes feeling; everything’s a bit darker, the songs are a bit longer and slower, the sound is bigger, referencing modern rock as much as punk.
Unsurprisingly, Creevy is a charismatic and expressive singer, conveying moods tough and sensitive, playful and pissed off—all of these on the cooking/sex highlight “Humble Pro.” And she wants you to know her heart’s in a punky place on “Trash People.” But she sounds forced at times, as does a lot of Apocalipstick; often, not much is happening, but it’s sure happening loudly. If the breakout happens for Cherry Glazerr, it’s the singer, not the songs.