Phoenix albums reviewed and top 10 Phoenix songs

To celebrate the release of the new Phoenix album Ti Amo this June, below is a career retrospective. My thoughts on the albums and my top 10 Phoenix songs.

United (2000)
Thomas Mars has a distinctive vocal style, and Phoenix’s debut sees the band finding their feet. There’s a wide range of instruments and genre experimentation, although it all fits within a pop sound.
The opener “School’s Rules” has an enjoyable guitar intro which sadly isn’t a fully formed song. “Too Young” is a great single that has that fun-loving Phoenix-y sound and was included on Lost in Translation soundtrack. The blissful instrumental at the end of “Honeymoon” is beautiful. “If I Ever Feel Better” goes for fast spoken pop and is a bouncy, memorable track. “Embuscade” is a nice jazzy instrumental. “Summer Days” feels like a lesser variation of “Too Young”. “Funky Squaredance” at almost 10 minutes might be the most ambitious track, opening with 3 min of vocal distortion, then becomes funky and Daft Punk-esque, and at about the 6 min mark there’s a soaring guitar section. The closing track “Definitive Breaks” reprises Too Young, adding a saxophone.

Alphabetical (2004)
Sporadically good, but a patchy follow-up to 2000’s United. The melodies are often uninspired and the word repetition on choruses to “Run Run Run” and “If It’s Not With You” are annoying. There aren’t really any big stand outs, with “(You Can’t Blame It On) Anybody” the most pleasing to the ears.  “I’m an Actor” appears to be about addiction.
The track-by track order is lazy and hurts the listening experience. Why, for example, is “If It’s Not With You” featuring the repeated lyric “together”,  followed by “Holdin’ on Together”, another song with “together” in the lyrics? Also, the instrumental “Congratulations” is too similar to the track that precedes it.
“Victim of the Crime” and the title track “Alphabetical” are more melancholy than anything on their debut, and seem to be about life as a pop star. Kudos for trying something different. “Alphabetical” works as a sad ballad, but the rest of the album plays it safe, presumably not wanting to alienate the fanbase.

It’s Never Been Like That (2006)
Rockier third album, the melodies are unmemorable. I initially liked the single “Long Distance Call” but after a few plays the word repetition in the chorus becomes irritating.
Favorite lyric from the track “One Time Too Many”: “Hard to tell you kindly that ain’t what I’m like”.

Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (2009) 

Their 2004 and 2006 albums were patchy. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is a return to form and maintains its energy from beginning to end. Probably their most upbeat and well-produced since 2000’s United. Earned the band a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album. On the playful album title referencing Mozart, Thomas Mars said: ”almost like a childish thing, like you’re unleashing a child into the museum and he draws a moustache on the Mona Lisa or something”
Best tracks: Lisztomania, Love Like a Sunset Part II, 1901, Rome, Armistice

Bankrupt! (2013)

Fifth full-length studio release, and arguably the group’s most underrated. The sound was described as “a peachy, fun vibe”, in keeping with the sleeve, and there appears to be an Asian influence.  A couple of weaker moments are Drakkar Noir and S.O.S. in Bel Airhave, which have unconvincing lyrics. As another reviewer notes, perhaps the album tells a tale of the lonesome feelings of making it to the top and the conflicting emotions of stardom.  
Best tracks: Bourgeois, Entertainment, Trying To Be Cool, Bankrupt!

Ti Amo (2017)

Their latest released June 9. A light, summer pop album with Italian disco influences. I’ve listened a couple of times and plenty of replay potential, containing many pleasant moments. Best songs: Role Model, Goodbye Soleil, J-Boy, Via Veneto, Telefono

My top 10 Phoenix songs (in no particular order)
Too Young (Lost in Translation soundtrack)
If I Ever Feel Better
(You Can’t Blame It On) Anybody
One Time Too Many
Love Like a Sunset Part II (Somewhere soundtrack)
Funky Squaredance

Honorable mention: Role Model

What do you think? As always, comments are welcome

6 thoughts on “Phoenix albums reviewed and top 10 Phoenix songs

  1. Well we often feature music by people you have never heard of and I'm afraid the same goes for me with this band – Thanks for sharing though as well worth some further investigation.


  2. @Alex Withrow: Thanks, their debut album still takes the win for me. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is prob my #2.
    Big fan of “Love Like a Sunset Part II”. From Somewhere soundtrack, I also love I'll Try Anything Once by The Strokes, Look by Sebastien Tellier, & Cool by Gwen Stefani.


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