Shriek of the Week: Foxygen, “Shuggie”
Near the end of 2013 I first heard of Foxygen by way of radio station KCRW’s Today’s Top Tune podcast. Almost every day I try and remember to download KCRW’s top tune as well as KEXP Seattle’s Song of the Day. It’s a great way to keep up to date with the latest indie music and occasionally find an artist you like that you wouldn’t otherwise hear about. What typically happens for me is that I lag weeks or months behind the podcasts but I still find the music to be extremely fresh. In fact, often this is better as the tune might be offered by KEXP or KCRW before the full album has been released, but by the time I get around to listening to the song I can get the full album if I so choose. That’s what happened to me with Foxygen.
“Shuggie” was the first single off of the band’s second album, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, but despite being from their second album (or their third, depending on how you measure these things), it was the first time Foxygen got any real attention. Prior to We Are The Ambassadors they (by all accounts – I haven’t listened to the older music) sounded all over the place; on this album they draw inspirations from a wide variety of sources but still it holds together nicely. “Shuggie” is a great introduction to the band – and a great choice for their first single – as it’s the poppiest of their songs, but it isn’t illustrative of what Foxygen is all about. No one song could be. My first few times listening to the album I heard elements of the Rolling Stones, psychedelic-era Beatles, the Velvet Underground, TV on the Radio, MGMT and even Alabama Shakes. Pitchfork agrees – in their flattering review of the album (8.4 out of 10 and “Best New Music” designation) they reference Mick Jagger, Lou Reed, the Kinks, Captain Fantastic, Blood Sweat & Tears, and Jean Knight. That’s a lot of influences, but, like me, Pitchfork likes what they hear. “Having a great record collection and having some idea what to do with it are two different things, and on We Are The Ambassadors Foxygen have internalized enough of the music they love to start toying with it.”
So what is Foxygen exactly? They’re a slightly goofy yet clearly smart experimental rock band. But unlike most experimental rock bands, these guys are accessible. They’re a little bit vintage sounding without sounding dated. As I write that, I realize how much their album title makes sense. They are indeed the 21st century ambassadors to the late ’60s, the time of peace and magic. If nothing else, we can all agree that everyone likes Shuggie. It’s MGMT with a bit of funk.
After Shuggie, you’ll be ready for the full Foxygen experience. If whole albums aren’t your thing … well maybe you’re in the wrong place. But seriously, if whole albums aren’t your thing, two other Foxygen songs are must listens, and fortunately these were their two follow-up singles. “No Destruction” – which could fit in seamlessly on the Velvet Underground’s Loaded, has sharp lyrics and gets better and better as the song moves along. You can download the mp3 here. “San Fransisco”, which evokes the Beatles White Album, is quite different – a sweet, almost silly, song with a cheery sounding call-and-response chorus containing a cruel joke. Watch the video here.
Foxygen – Shuggie – Official Video