by chris carpenter

Sometimes the French get a bad rap in America, not Somalian Pirate bad, but some of you may recall some of America’s finest (& most ignorant) referring to McDonald’s favorite treat as “Freedom Fries.”  Then again, Americans get a bad rap around a fair share of the globe so in reality both countries have gotten tangled in a myriad of generalizations. Versailles born Phoenix however can be universally appreciated. With their funky collaboration of alt rock instruments and danceable electronic grooves,  Phoenix creates really good, catchy pop music while somehow maintaining their high level of indie cred. They are very much pop, but the best kind and this notion is reaffirmed with their fifth studio release Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.

Artist: Phoenix
Song: 1901 (Tremulance Remix)

Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix bursts through the gates dancing with the fun and fancy free “Lisztomania,”  your body starts to move at the opening drum beat and doesn’t stop until the song does. “1901″ follows and keeps the energy high. The album’s pace slows a bit throughout the duration, best exemplified by the fourth track “Love Like a Sunset Pt 1.” Breaking their pop blueprint, the seven minute track is mostly instrumental with lyrics that only kick in at the the six and a half minute mark. Nonetheless it serves as a nice intermission/transition amongst the mostly upbeat tunes.

While “Lisztomania,” “1901″ and “Girlfriend” have been getting a lot of the early hype, I think the unsung hero of the album is “Rome.” It starts off sounding like a Talking Heads track, until the funky Phoenix beat kicks in along with the realization that this band is awesomely unique. After the break, Thomas Mars leads with some sweet sounding vocals backed only by a soft high hat drum tap that eventually gives into a multi-instrument jam. The variation of tempos on this track alone was enough to sell me this record.

All in all Phoenix’s previous releases have been full of feel good, dance happy music and this record follows suit in the best way possible. I would happily accept albums like these for years to come. Bob Dylan can make me think, Bon Iver can make me reminisce, but Phoenix can always make me boogie, and for that I am thankful.  On a side note, I love when really talented and creative people shack up and Phoenix dips into the drama as singer Thomas Mars has a daughter with super dope film director Sofia Coppola.

Sure to be one of the Summer’s top records, Wolfgang Amadeus hits the U.S. on May 26th and releases around the world a day earlier, so bust out those BBQ grills and mentally prepare for an awkward tanline.  Frisbee on the Quad commence!

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