When is musical excess—or more specifically a carefree recording style—a beautiful thing, and when is it purely over-indulgence? With today’s artists’ ability to record wherever and whenever they want and with more ways to create music than in the past, it can be easy to get carried away, adding every sound that’s even a little interesting. Sometimes it’s unintentional; sometimes artists don’t know any better; and some bands do it with intent. On …And Star Power, Foxygen knowingly and purposefully throws everything it has on the album with carefree, lo-fi glee. While it’s far from perfect, at times Star Power plays like a 21st century version of The Beatles’ White Album, with its short attention span flipping the sonic channel repeatedly over the double album’s four sides.
Compared to the band’s last album We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace & Magic, Star Power is a less straightforward venture, with the 82-minute run time containing a garbage bag-size assortment of music and sounds. It’s not an album that can be easily consumed like 21st Century, but rather one that that’s best heard lying in a prone position with the sound turned up, getting lost in the band’s bizarre world. Repeat listens reveal more intricacies in the sound. Like most double albums, it often battles to maintain momentum through its run time, but the sonic changes from poignant songs to weird freak-outs keep things intriguing much of the time.
While it doesn’t quite have the tight conciseness of 21st Century and that album’s very catchy songs, Star Power has plenty of memorable moments along the album’s warped journey. Singer-songwriter partners Jonathan Rado and Sam France change things up on a whim, testing the limits of their oddball music tenacity. The friends still largely embody all things ’60s and ’70s rock ’n’ roll, with songs like “How Can You Really” marking a continuance of their love of that style of music. Some of the album’s freakier psych-rock and harder rock moments are on side two (The Paranoid Side) and side three (Scream: Journey Through Hell). “Can’t Contextualize My Mind,” for instance, has a title and sound fitting the sporadic nature of the album as a whole.
For Foxygen, 2013 was a year of highs (the release of 21st Century) and lows (rumors of a breakup). But with …And Star Power, Foxygen shows that its creative mojo is still alive. The album is full of all kinds of ideas, some magnificent, some raw, but always ideas showing a band looking for new ways to express themselves. With help from a number of special guests, including the Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne, Foxygen frequently shows that, in music, “excess” can be a beautiful word.