Album Review: Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

[V2; 2009]

Versailles, France has given us many great things (cake-slinging queens notwithstanding). Electronic favorites Air and Daft Punk have come out of the city, as well as famed director Michel Gondry. Air themselves gave birth to Phoenix, who were the backing band on a remix of Air’s “Kelly Watch the Stars.” Phoenix guitarist Laurent Brancowitz even started a short-lived band with the guys in Daft Punk. However, Phoenix has since become their own entity, having now released their fourth studio album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.

The band gave listeners a taste of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix when they performed “1901” on Saturday Night Live in early April. The song, with its breakbeats and noodling guitar, features a theme of classical references—something that reappears throughout the record. “1901” is easily the catchiest, most in your face song on the album, and it should be an indie dance staple for quite awhile. The song is preceded by the fantastic “Lisztomania”; one of the dreamiest songs on the record, with atmospheres right from the Air camp mixed in with the band’s own signature electropop sound.

The album clearly moves into its most experimental stage with the onset of the instrumental “Love Like a Sunset Part I”, which blends so many different sounds that it seems as though you hear something completely new on each listen. Part II of the song follows up nicely, an acoustic drifter after the tsunami found in Part I. The album moves into rockier territory with “Lasso” before slowing down again with “Rome”. “Rome” is highlighted by breaks in the song, with part one being instrumental and part two featuring Thomas Mars going at it alone with heartbeat-like percussion, a Rhodes piano, and some shakers.

The album reaches its pinnacle at “Countdown (Sick for the Big Sun)”. The song features great lyrics, including a chorus of “we’re sick for the big sun” and the fantastic, “do you remember when twenty-one years was old?”

At just 36 minutes, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix flies by while still managing to force listeners to pay attention—and maybe even dance a bit in the process. The combo of “Girlfriend” and “Armistice” is an unlikely ending, but by the time the toy pianos fade out on the latter, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix has already proven it’s point: that Phoenix is one of the leading bands in the Europop world, and are likely to score a crossover hit along with their contemporaries.