Listen to This! – February 2, 2013

This issue of Listen to This! focuses on on a pair of very different albums which share one important feature, they’re good. Foxygen‘s debut album may remind you of a tape your family might have had in the car, while Toro y Moi‘s third sounds like something that didn’t exist when cassettes were widely used..

Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic

Release date: January 22, 2013
Purchase here

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

I often hear people, usually of the older variety, talking about how ‘real music doesn’t exist anymore, y’know like good guitar players and stuff’, I always respond with ‘it does, you just have to know where to look’. As pretentious as that response sounds, and as dismissive as the original statement is, Foxygen is the type of band I would love to introduce to these people.

Right off the bat, Foxygen’s debut album We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace & Magic sounds like the product of a decade past, reverb drenched vocals cascade out of your speakers (or headphones if you’d prefer) with a bevy of keys, guitars, drums and a generally full band. Album opener ‘In the Darkness’ sounds like something the Kinks could have produced if they had dropped acid, listened to Flying Burrito Brothers, drank a lukewarm beer to sober up and recorded a brief track.

After that 2 minute opener, Foxygen slow things down a touch on the track ‘No Destruction’ which is a much more relaxed take on California psychedelia, fans of The War on Drugs will be well advised to listen to this track and album as a whole. Much like TWoD, Foxygen at times reminds you of decidedly unhip but still revered musicians like Tom Petty. With lyrics like ‘there’s no need to be an asshole, you’re not in Brooklyn anymore‘ ‘No Destruction’ is an early album highlight. The song which follows, ‘On Blue Mountain’ is one of the trippiest on the scant nine on the record, employing a melody with unnatural rhythm changes which shouldn’t work as well as they do. Bringing up the Rolling Stones or Mick Jagger when drawing comparisons for a modern band is a pretty bold statement, but its warranted here, simply give this track a listen:

The highlights and lofty comparisons hardly end there, as Foxygen emulate the Beach Boys on certain tracks (‘San Francisco’), Electric Light Orchestra on others (‘Shuggie’) and a drunken blistering punk rock band on others still (titular track ‘We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic’).

This is a band which proudly wears its influences on its lapel for all to see, but don’t be mistaken, they are their own brand new, and completely awesome entity.

Toro y Moi – Anything in Return

Release date: January 22, 2013
Purchase here

Rating: ★★★★½ 

On the other end of the sonic spectrum sits Toro y Moi, stage name of Chaz Bundick, whose sound is decidedly of this century, this decade, and perhaps even years to come. Whereas Foxygen delves deep, and delves well, into well tread genres of years past, Anything in Return, Toro y Moi’s third album, is constantly creating sounds of its own, shunning off any particular genre.

A contagiously upbeat album, Anything in Return starts off on a misleadingly slow note with ‘Harm in Charge’, however even the slower moments here have a simple internal funk. The ovewhelming majoriy of the sounds on this album are electronic, but they have a natural feel to them, especially the bouncy percussion samples that propel many of the songs forward.

A pair of album highlights come early in the form of ‘Say That’ and ‘So Many Details’, each of with are insanely busy and reveal layer after layer with repeated listen. While the other album reviewed here would be perfect to play for an older music fan who slams modern music, these tracks will appeal to only a select few older folk, perhaps one who listened to the likes of Prince or even Hall & Oates. Granted, moments that harken back to an act prior to the 00′s are few and far between, as the greatest influences at work here are Canadian musician Caribou, Mantler, Dosh and the like.

One of the biggest changes to Toro y Moi’s sound on this his third album in the past four years is the confidence with which the Bundick’s vocals are presented. This difference makes itself most apparent on some of the more R&B hued tracks, including the great track ‘Cola’, which builds to its peak and denouement slowly, vocals always at the forefront. Even the R&B on this album is decidedly of the moment, influences are apparent but what’s even more apparent is the innovation at work. Fans of recent R&B acts like Miguel and even The Dream will like what they here on certain tracks.

Another album highlight, which functions like a funk track slowed down to a crawl is ‘High Life’, which sounds like its title, don’t be afraid to listen to it in a cloud of smoke, possibly in the presence of a carnal love. ‘Cake’ turns the funk and even disco up to ten, its lyrics suggest a ballad of the greatest order while the instrumentation should have even the most reserved listener dancing (I should know).

Despite how new everything here is, one feels it will endure, a sign of good art. When all is said and done, Anything in Return is Toro y Moi‘s best work yet, and one of the best of the year early on.

Jack Pereira

About Jack Pereira