Year-end lists can be a clusterfuck of critical gloating, parasitical echo-chambering, and self-congradulatory back-patting, but before even that could begin (as early as November for some plucky publications that gambled on a flop from Big Boi’s then-forthcoming December album Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors), the name Foxygen was already on everyone’s lips as the next big thing of 2013.
The hype and the portmanteau band name were enough to make me shudder every time Bob Boilen, David Dye or Will Hermes mentioned Foxygen, but then the Jagjaguwar-backed band got tapped to open for the Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s upcoming tour, and I decided it was worth a listen.
The young California duo are far more traditional in their approach to pop music than their association with UMO might suggest, with a prodigious understanding of the songwriting and production techniques of ’60s San Francisco. The track “San Fransisco” is essentially a pastiche of that era, complete with flute and glockenspiel, while the record’s other single “Shuggie” might well be a nod to the early-’70s soul of Shuggie Otis. It’s here that the band show their ear for composition, shifting into a loungy Jim Morisson bridge, rubbery soul groove, and Monkees-stlye da-da-da outro.
Early comparisons were made to the Stones or Lou Reed, which are not off the mark in the case of the title track or opener “In the Darkness”—clearly, we’ve established their love of the ’60s. But the band are best understood, I think, in reference to MGMT, another telepathic songwriting brotherhood who can step with ease into genres from a prior era and infuse them with 21st century exuberance and psychedelia. After their Prince-inspired debut Oracular Spectacular, MGMT’s baroque-pop follow-up Congratulations was considered a flop. Foxygen’s Peace and Magic fills that void.