FOXYGEN — “Hang”
THE GOOD: California duo Foxygen manages to stay together (the band thrives on inner turmoil) and releases an ambitious fifth.
THE BAD: With its elaborate arrangements and prog-rock throwbacks, “Hang” makes you work at times.
THE NITTY GRITTY: We get Philly soul (“Follow the Leader”). We look back at theatrical Elton John (“Avalon”). There’s glam-era Lou Reed (“Mrs. Adams”). How about some breezy A.M. radio country rock (“On Lankersham”)? You see where this is going.
Recorded with an honest-to-goodness orchestra, “Hang” takes us back about 45 years, to when albums were ambitious and singles were an afterthought. But just like many records from that era, this new album has moments of sheer brilliance AND bits that sound truly over-ambitious. For example, “America” is a bit of a slog at first. Spin it again, and you begin to appreciate the intricacies.
So you have to pay attention. Let “Hang” melt into the background, and the music begins to sound messy.
BUY IT?: Still…yeah.
THE FLAMING LIPS — “Oczy Mlody”
THE GOOD: Oklahoma indie rock legends Flaming Lips returns with a spacey 14th.
THE BAD: Like any other Lips experiment, “Oczy” requires a few spins before its subtleties fully sink in. Some patience please.
THE NITTY GRITTY: “Oczy Mlody” is a Polish phrase meaning “eyes of the young.” Perhaps that’s why frontman Wayne Coyne is singing about wizards and unicorns. Or is it because the Lips are still hangin’ with Miley Cyrus?
Whatever the reasons, realize going in that “Oczy” is trippy, softer and very “otherworldly.” Kind of like 1999’s “Soft Bulletin” without the crashing drums and producer Dave Fridmann’s penchant for controlled distortion. Of course, Fridmann is here again. He simply keeps matters more “airy” this time.
The true beauty of “Oczy,” though, is that it works amazingly well as a whole. From the pastoral beauty of “The Castle” to the delicate pulsations carrying “One Night While Hunting for Faeries and Witches and Wizards To Kill,” the record whisks us away on a cloud of pure fantasy.
BUY IT?: Yeah.
CLOUD NOTHINGS — “Life Without Sound”
THE GOOD: Ohio indie rockers Cloud Nothings comes back with an even fifth.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Still the brainchild of singer/songwriter/guitarist Dylan Baldi (the full band was a Baldi solo undertaking first), Cloud Nothings continues to crank out loud but melodic songs that possess both sharp teeth and a more sensitive side.
“Life Without Sound” came out of some abandoned sessions and more than a few re-starts, hence the almost three-year gap since the group’s last outing, 2014’s “Here and Nowhere Else.” The end result isn’t necessarily more polished, just more in tune with some of Baldi’s past work.
Despite the usual change in the producer’s chair (Sleater-Kinney/Los Campesinos/Blonde Redhead assistant John Goodmanson is this year’s choice), Baldi doesn’t feel the need to reinvent this band’s proverbial wheel. He’s quite content to offer a basic collection big on bold melodies, chunky guitars, crashing drums and uncluttered arrangements. Good songs in standard electric settings — we’ll take it.
BUY IT?: Yes.