Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Phoenix Primer

As our excitement grows, and grows, and grows for Phoenix's forthcoming album release of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, we keep blabbering about the band, basically wherever we are. The thing is, the more people we talk to, the more we realize just how little the band has penetrated the American consciousness, and just how few people are familiar with the band. We first Phoenix them with "Too Young" on the Lost In Translation soundtrack, and have been loving them ever since. But if you just caught wind of this awesome, awesome, French band - or, maybe if you just aren't that familiar with their catalog - well, we thought we'd provide our thoughts on the three records released so far.

United (2000): United, the band's first studio full length, is also unquestionably their most sporadic release. The record's all over the place stylistically, although it does manage to maintain a solid quality bar. From the pop hit "Too Young", to the disco tinged "If I Ever Feel Better", to lo-fi "Party Time", the record manages to touch on almost every genre of popular music, but never really find (ironically) a unified direction. The second half of the record takes a decidedly neu-lounge vibe, and sax solos abound. What's more (particularly on the bizarre epic "Funky Squaredance"), the band's association with Daft Punk is most evident on this record. Choice Cuts: "Too Young", "If I Ever Feel Better", "Party Time"

Alphabetical (2003): If United was all over the map, then Alphabetical is its polar opposite. This record is so fine tuned and manicured, in both sound and direction, that it almost comes across as contrived. This is the record where the band really found their sound - equal parts stacatto guitar riffs, intricate percussion, and multitracked vocals. It's also where the band found their comfortable middle ground between laid back lounge, rock, and pop that makes their sound so unique. Despite fully realizing their sound, there's an element of spontaneity that seems to be lacking on some of these tracks. It's as though you can feel the band-behind-the-band just waiting to bust out and really rock. Bonus: Watch an EPK about the making of the record here. Choice Cuts: "Everything Is Everything", "Run Run Run", "Alphabetical", "I'm An Actor"

It's Never Been Like That (2006): It's Never Been Like That is unquestionably the record where Phoenix hit their stride and became the awesome band that we know and love today. The record combines all the elements they had explored on previous records and combines them into tightly wound pop perfection. Every track on the record is stellar, and listening to it is an exercise in restraint to keep from dancing. That being said, the record is unquestionably front-loaded, and the first four tracks are thirteen minutes of pop-rock bliss. Once you listen to the record a few times through, it becomes something of an inseperable group of tracks. You'll end up listening more times than you care to admit. And yes, we picked six of the record's ten tracks as choice cuts. That's not a mistake. Choice Cuts: "Napoleon Says", "Consolation Prizes", "Rally", "Long Distance Call", "Courtesy Laughs", "Sometimes In The Fall"

Well there you have it - you, dear reader, are now well versed and prepared for the release of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. In the meantime, feed your Phoenix addiction (or if you don't have one, make it happen) by going back and listening to these records. We certainly won't hold it against you.