Review Summary: Oh but the door of consciousness isn't open anymore.
To an extent, it was hard not to love Foxygen’s debut album when it came out in 2011 – a sprawling but genuinely fun album that was not unlike a strange David Bowie (in the music) and Ariel Pink (in its lyrical depth). The duo of Sam France and Jonathan Rado had officially made their first, bona fide album, but they had been around for longer than that: when they formed in 2005, their style was an odd swamp of experimental music that dabbled in psychedelic and retro territory (there was absolutely no way to make it not sound pretentious, and it’s a shame because the album is anything but), but that garnered very little attention, and as a result the EPs they self-released are scattered and only a few are preserved anymore. Enter Richard Swift, a producer who flew the boys to Oregon, helped them make Broadway, and from there… well, nobody knew.
Peace and Magic is a rather insane endeavor, full of ebullience and bombast crammed into nine tracks clocking under forty minutes: but the energy and short length serves to the duo’s advantage, and P&M is a far more concise and far more ambitious album than the debut. The reason it works so well, is because Rado and France have a lot of heart. They have a peculiar style where they are able to fuse unrestrained energy and weightless emotions perfectly, complete with a certain accessibility that makes it come across as appealing without having to try: Broadway wasn’t ambitious enough to be pretentious, even though it was clearly an eclectic album: Foxygen just had a damn fun time with it. Everything they did right on the debut is augmented here.
The sincerity put forth in a song such as ‘No Destruction’ – easily the album’s best song and also the duo’s best so far – is undeniable. An early moment in the album, it paints a nice picture of the personality in the album, and is a five-minute monster of brightly-paced piano, swelling organ and guitar, shifting through time signatures and tempos almost perfectly. Where France’s vocals fit into this particular track, I cannot say, but Christ is he a good singer. France attacks the album with complete abandon, singing in a baritone here, coughing out falsetto there, and taking all kinds of other influences in between (such as Mick Jagger). Much like the instruments, he lives and breathes with all kinds of energy.
Magic doesn’t stop being good from here, also. There is the chaotic ‘Oh Yeah’, which presents a very apocalyptic atmosphere split into two sections, its delightful middle section, and a separate passage that makes the whole song a smorgasbord of weird fookin’ ***. “San Francisco” is easily the catchiest track on here, a psych pop ballad strolling along pastorally with some very pleasant lyrics mixed with gorgeous back vocals (“But that was many years from now / And I hope from here on now / I always seemed to want to shout / Your eyes are like a cup of tea and sending into the sun with me”). One song after another, the album’s doesn’t stop its brisk pace: the comfortably anthemic ‘Blue Mountain’, the string-swelling ‘Shuggie’, and the title track is… well f*cking crazy.
Plainly, it's a fantastic album, one that kicks 2013 off on the right track. It is intricate, ridiculous, and regardless of how insane it can get, the music is of the highest quality. There's not a problem on the album, other than minor annoyances - the shorter tracks maybe aren't as good as the other, more longer ones, and sometimes the production can't keep up with everything, but it's a soaring, energetic album, and everything about it is worth investing your time into. Cynics notwithstanding.