It might be the intro’s pulsing and the sing-stuttering or maybe it’s the rock pop and glazed vocals. I don’t know for sure, but whatever the reason, Phoenix’s single ‘1901’ got me through finals week despite late nights, all nighters, and pure misery.
Emergency song kit coming your way:
It was the first single released from Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, Phoenix’s long-awaited May release. Well, probably more long-awaited for perennial Phoenix fans hailing from France and other European countries. Wolfgang is their fourth album release, which was some surprise to me, an American fan who’s just recently hopped the Phoenix train.
After some hefty google-ing, I discovered quite an impressive history.
It’s crazy to think these guys started out over a decade ago in suburbs on Versailles. Before the name Phoenix was even established, they were more ambiguously known as those dudes playing in that remix of ‘Kelly Watch the Stars’ by Air. Things got serious when guitarist Laurent Brancowitz committed to Phoenix by officially leaving Darlin’, an unsuccessful starter band with Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo (no worries, the two soon became Daft Punk).
By 2003 Phoenix discreetly tapped into the US underground when ‘Too Young’ was featured in Lost in Translation, the sulky and witty drama directed by award-winning screenwriter Sofia Coppola. This was some good exposure for their first album United, and with each album the reviews became more fanatic. Listeners loved how the music moved and grooved, even describing Phoenix’s tunes as, “Pop at its finest.”
But this fourth album release has brought them to new heights. Phoenix is the most blogged artist on Hype Machine and first runner up on Elbo.ws. XMU channel 43 on XM radio rotates multiple Phoenix singles among Grizzly Bear’s ‘Two Weeks’ and ‘Golden Skans’ by Klaxons. All in all people believe that after three albums, Phoenix still has it, and now the boys are really bringin’ it.
That’s word from popular opinion, let’s see what long-term fans are saying:
“Phoenix are one of the greatest bands to come out of France in the last 15 years (along with Daft Punk and Air, two of my great musical loves, and several other bands that formed around the same time), and they are finally receiving some well-deserved attention. Phoenix just keep getting better, and they know it — they love it, they exploit it, they bathe in its glory. Seriously, who else would have the “couilles” to title their fourth album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix? But it’s justified: This album is pure shining genius from a band rife with unique sound and creativity, a gift that the American public is starved for in these vapid, manufactured-Disney-pop times. I’ve been hooked on Phoenix since the moment I saw their “If I Ever Feel Better” video while living in Paris in 2001. Over the past decade, Phoenix have continually reinvented their sound — with undeniable cohesion and hat-tips to previous albums — and WAP, their pièce de résistance, is no exception. “ - M. Mills, Amazon.com customer
A well-put, honest review from a man who know what he’s talking about. Now my take:
I heard a greater part of this album piecemeal via satellite radio and the internet, and I believe each song is its own chunk of brilliance. My first impression was something like, “These disco vocals are reminiscent of Kevin Barnes in the best way, and I love their house twist on alt rock.” So come the day I finally hear _Wolfgang _in its entirety, and the only flaw I can find is repetitiveness. The chemistry among the first five tracks is almost tangible. It’s easy for a band of this genre to OD on toe-tapping, head-bobbing poppiness, but they politely refrain. And just wait til you reach the delicate installment of some raw danceability with track four, ‘Love Like a Sunset, Part I’ followed by its cute and breezy counterpart, ‘Love Like a Sunset, Part II.’
And here they are now, conveniently bundled in one song for your listening pleasure:
[audio:04 - Love Like a Sunset.mp3 |titles=Love Like a Sunset |artists=Phoenix]
[media id=65 width=570 height=428]
After the fabulous five, the tracks are still individually strong, but the album grows tiresome. You listen, sort of, and kinda click around your iTunes for a new artist. It’s weird, because soon you’ll fall in love with ‘Lasso’ or ‘Rome’ when it comes up on shuffle, just not when lost in the sea of the entire CD. (Or maybe that’s just an anecdote from my Saturday night, who knows?)
So there you have it, popular opinion vs. avid listener M. Mills vs. just me.
Have a go, and tell us what you think. For the greater good of your ears, invest some time in Phoenix.