Release Date: Jun 9, 2017
Record label: Glassnote Entertainment Group
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Alternative Dance
Phoenix never stay standing in one place too long. Like the mythological bird they're named after, the French band seem to rise from the ashes every four to five years, energised, sporting a somewhat altered version of the indie pop they've come to be known for. Their last album 'Bankrupt!' was vibrant, but also a little knotty, containing surprising edges that constantly kept the listener guessing what was coming round the corner.
Listen to Phoenix's new album Ti Amo and you're likely to come away with a number of indulgent cravings. Perhaps most notable is "Fior Di Latte," a gorgeous burst of synth-pop flavour that's named after the simplest form of gelato (it's also the name of a type of cheese). Elsewhere, the ecstatic "Tuttifrutti" takes its title from a candied fruit dessert, while danceable robo-pop anthem "Ti Amo" finds Mars singing about "melted gelato" and offering "Champagne or Prosecco." Ice cream and alcohol aren't the hardest-hitting song subjects imaginable -- particularly not in these fearful times of extremist politics -- but they're a perfect representation of Ti Amo's beautiful richness.
It's hard to say if it's a calculated move, but Phoenix always have their albums ready and available for the summer. With their flashy soft rock radiating idyllic, breezy vibes, they're the quintessential summer-fun band. Ti Amo ("I love you" in Italian) follows up 2013's Bankrupt!, an album so disappointingly decent that most people tend to forget it was even released, one that came after 2009's massive breakthrough, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.
During 2015’s Bataclan massacre, Phoenix guitarist Christian Mazzalai spent a nervous night locked down by police in a Paris studio, watching along with the rest of the world as the story of the concert hall’s unthinkable invasion and heartbreaking loss of life played out across social media. The story offers a small but indelible connection between France’s premier rock band and the tumultuous mixture of violence, anti-immigrant fear, and right-wing reactionism that’s shaken western Europe’s political order. And yet, despite the upheaval, summer still comes to the Mediterranean.
The French quartet have always been able to craft pristine tunes with nary a hair out of place, but the tracks on Ti Amo feel both more meticulous and airier. Deck d'Arcy's bass lines are tethered to the infectious, punchy percussion, and synths as opposed to guitars dominate the soundscape. While they explored maximalism at times on Bankrupt!, this is a leaner record that harkens back to some of the band's great understated moments on Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix and It's Never Been Like That, although Ti Amo is far less of a cuffed-jeans-and-white-Chucks indie rock record than either of those.
Though Phoenix's blend of soft rock, synth pop, disco, and indie has remained largely the same over the years, they've always given their albums distinctive moods. This is particularly true of Ti Amo, a reaction to the tumultuous late 2010s that feels timely, timeless, and unmistakably Phoenix. In the four years between Bankrupt! and this album, the world got a lot darker and scarier, with events such as the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris defining the era's violence and uncertainty (due to a police lockdown during the attack at the Bataclan theater, Phoenix guitarist Christian Mazzalai was even trapped in their studio while they were making Ti Amo).
The biggest and best French rock band ever has proved that you can still go pop on the strength of cagey songcraft and retro-rock sophistication. "Champagne or prosecco?" frontman Thomas Mars offers over a New Wave mirror-ball glide on the title track of their sixth LP, before dropping references to the Buzzcocks, soft rock and that venerable old-school smoothie Beethoven. Phoenix's 2013 LP Bankrupt! seemed to pull back a bit from the spit-polished bounce of their wondrous surprise hits "1901" and "Lisztomania." This time out, they're heavy into mellow Seventies sunshine, with major ELO/10cc/Steely Dan overtones.
When they're having a bad day, what gets the four members of Phoenix out of bed, because for the rest of us it's the gloriously buoyant pop-rock they've been practising for nearly two decades now. Ti Amo is their sixth album, the last one (Bankrupt!) coming four years back in 2013, and for the most part it's as gorgeously fun as ever. Usually bands hit a highpoint of acclaim and popularity that can't be reached again.
The sixth album by the French quartet, Ti Amo, is pop music in its purest form, and it's intended as much. Described by Phoenix as their most romantic album to date, Ti Amo is fast and direct, and heralds an escape to the joys and of summer, vacation, and the excitement of new love. It's a too deliberately crafted record designed for summer fun, time spent on a beach, or chasing a partner in a disco.
I n the 17 years since their potent first album, United, Phoenix have lost some of their exuberance. These days, as Ti Amo, their sixth set, illustrates, the French quartet favour adult-oriented synth-rock over the fluid powerpop that made their name. But while Ti Amo is slow to reveal its charms, there are moments when the cheesy concept - a romanticised version of Italy - is made to seem like a brilliant idea.
W ith their artfully tousled haircuts and general air of supreme nonchalance, Versailles electropoppers Phoenix are nothing if not cool. Indeed, it's an adjective applied to them so often, the band might be tired of hearing it. That belief is strengthened by Phoenix's sixth album, on which they seem to be goading each other into previously undiscovered realms of naffness.
Sofia Coppola has just become the second woman to win Best Director at Cannes for The Beguiled. Finally, it seems, she has created a film that nears the quality of Lost in Translation. The intermediate films weren't terrible, but perhaps suffered critically as a result of her 2003 whimsical masterpiece setting the bar so high. Her husband Thomas Mars must sympathise with such frustration.
Without making a big thing of it, the French rock band Phoenix has resisted modern fame's mania for disclosure, instead cultivating an affable inscrutability and consuming devotion to the studio album. They've been many things to many people: a rarified Franz Ferdinand, a smarter Strokes, Vampire Weekend with ennui, Spoon for Francophiles. Only slowly did it dawn on us that they've always just been Phoenix--so cunning has been their capacity to absorb colors and styles into their unvarying poise, their faint detachment and interior artifice, their seemingly boundless faculty to reflect the richness of life in sound.
The sound of a digital diesel truck starts and Phoenix' new single “J Boy” is driving a comfortable 70 mph from 4 seconds in. Futuristic but not bleak, it is more Star Wars than Blade Runner. The song has the hooks of an hour of pop radio, but Thomas Mars is never content to be merely catchy, he has to sculpt the hooks into an ice cube tray of stylized moments.