Seeing Other People
Jagjaguwar Records · April 26, 2019
The tight production and great performances all around make this their best work since 21st century, and a sleeper for best albums of 2019.
When Foxygen announced their latest album, they said it would be a ‘goodbye album.’ Not as in a direct goodbye to the duo’s work together, but a metaphor for a lot of goodbyes in the band’s history. From the tension between Sam and Rado, this being the last album of their record deal, and them saying they are no longer touring, there is a lot of goodbyes to go around. But some things they didn’t say farewell to on Seeing Other People was the tight production from Rado, their 60’s to 80’s styled tunes with a stylistic Foxygen twist, and their love for dramatic music.
Coming off their theatrical 2017 release, Hang, where they toured their Broadway antics with an orchestra set up and lots of mic flipping, the group had deviated away from their roots of classic rock sound for a more soundtrack style of music. With their first two albums, Take the Kids Off Broadway and their breakthrough album We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace And Magic, they took their influences of The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Velvet Underground, etc. and took a modern production approach to their music. Though many who go down this path end up as a flat, almost cover band (not pointing fingers but Getta Va….) trying to bring back the ‘old days’ of music past, Foxygen reinvents the sound with their own twists here and there. With the amazing instrumentation and production work from Jonathan Rado and the theatrical vocal performances from Sam France, Foxygen makes this style of play work, and work really well.
With Seeing Other People, they combined their love of reinventing old sounds with their latest soundtracky style and created a packed, though short, 37 minutes of tight production and performance. The singles from Seeing Other People really hyped up the album with all three bringing something different to the table. With a dramatic performance from France, and great backing string parts composed by Rado, the lead single “Living a Lie” shows the theatrical flavor and subtle instrumentation touch ups that they were going for in this latest release. “Face The Facts,” my personal favorite on the album, brings the more goofy side of their work up front and center. The catchy and explosive chorus along with the carefully placed string parts fill out this song to be a complete three-minute journey of excitement, goofiness, and introspection. “Work”, the least exciting of the three singles, is a little cluttered at times, but the introspection of how they write songs and the catchy chorus makes it a great opener.
This album is a bit of a compilation album of the old styles that they like put together as Foxygen songs. From “The Thing Is” which sounds like something out of Grease, to “Mona” with its 80’s synth and bass sounds, and “Flag at Half-Mast” where they just really really really want to make a song that sounds like “Wild Horses” by The Rolling Stones, there’s a lot to unpack. Not a lot of bands right now are adding instrumentation jams to fill out their music, and Foxygen nailed this on Seeing Other People. The breakdown in “News” brings back motifs from earlier in the song but it starts with smooth singing that breaks out into a distorted guitar solo and dramatic vocal performance ending in a homage to the songwriting of the 70’s.. The ending instrumentals to “Flag at Half-Mast” has this interesting mix of the styles of Tyler the Creator and Santana, which sounds like it should be a mess, but they piece it together real smoothly.
There is a lot to love about this album, but at the same time it does have its faults. With every song being a different flavor, it is hard to piece all the songs together smoothly. I could listen to this album on shuffle and it would have the same completeness as listening to the songs in the original order. Also, the closer track, “The Conclusion”, does not do the rest of the album justice at all. It is by far the weakest of the bunch and it sounds more like a transition track then a closer. The only thing that makes it a fitting closer track is its title.
Overall, Foxygen uses their versatile playing styles to create a genre packed album that is both original while still paying homage to their classic rock influencers. Taking risks with going back to their old style of play, along with creating more instrumental parts pays off for them on Seeing Other People. They created a goofy, but still deep record that brings something new after each listen through. The tight production and great performances all around make this their best work since 21st Century, and a sleeper for best albums of 2019.