Label: V2 Records
Due Out: May 26th
It seems that the buzz over Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix has been going on for months now. Stereogum's good for about at least a couple posts about the band, Phoenix, every week, and it seems like everyone's at least heard "1901" and "Lisztomania," if not the entire album. Still, it's not out yet, so some speculation exists. The group has morphed quite a bit from its humble beginnings of 2000's United, which seemingly touched more on 90s alternative. Today, the band has fully embraced the current landscape of the indie rock scene, which has a strong and growing focus on electronic and dance elements, and the results have been nothing short of fun and active. The bombs on the album's cover are probably an apt description of this album- definitely better than any imagery I can formulate with words. You're seemingly bombarded from the first note until the end with a wave of pop bliss, and a steady, streaming hiss of dance-ability. Cue the lights.
"Lisztomania," the first single, gives you the perfect tone-setter for an album whose joy and ecstasy seem to bleed out of every note. Imagine The Strokes with a dance beat, and you're starting to get on the right track. A great keyboard backing really drives this one through its peaks and valleys- jumping, bopping, and then careening towards a fever pitch before settling back to Earth. "1901" starts similarly. A bit toned-down in comparison, but still very poppy, encouraging a tempo increase as it goes. The song stays within some limits, never bringing things too high or too low, but still, maintains a very active mood throughout. Next, "Fences" brings slows us down a bit further, at least at first glance. Here, like the other tracks, there's a lot going on, between dueling synths, falsetto vocals and a couple of interesting and offsetting guitar parts. Alluding to the name, the sound seems a bit fenced in, almost muted by restriction, however still remains strong, within these confines.
"Love Like a Sunset" is the album's longest track, clocking in at over seven and a half minutes, and is also the most adventurous. Unlike the first three tracks, here we have something completely devoid of a chorus or verse (for the first half of the song), an existential experiment into the inner workings of what mindset constructed these songs. Tribal beats mixed with synths act together to create a buzzing wall of sound that harkens to one of this year's earlier releases, Here We Go Magic, mixed with a Kid A b-side. Though we see several different moods throughout the mostly-instrumental experience, all flow perfectly from one to the next, and give a calming mood to the record, for the time being. Not to settle in the middle, "Lasso" jumps in immediately following, bringing the pace back up to where were at for the first track. Continuing a musical trend this year, we see a bright and sprawling picture unfold in front of us with the track's inviting, yet driven nature. On a similar note, "Rome" builds on the energy created by the last track, only to tear it down, and then erect it again by its own model. The lyrics flow easily and the electronic beats in the background glide in between the active guitar and percussion parts, to form a relaxing, yet upbeat standout.
"Countdown (Sick For The Big Sun)," gives us one of the busiest songs on the record, as several sounds bounce back-and-forth behind the album's most obvious shows of regret to this point. Still, it's also filled with a lot of bright spots, a great contrast that sets this one apart, for me at least. Next, "Girlfriend" once again tones it down a bit, while functioning within some pre-constructed walls. Here, however, you can almost feel the steady beat try to stretch these boundaries. It always feels like it's about to burst, but never does, almost holding itself back from the peak of its sonic potential. Finally, "Armistice," seems to stay true to its name, disarming parts of the album, and providing us with a proper and fitting end to the pop experience. Still, perhaps another track or two would have made this one feel a bit more complete.
Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is filled with a passion and energy that you will find on very few albums this year. From a pop standpoint, the album does its job- providing us with an enjoyable and radio-friendly mix of bright and interesting tracks. Maybe there weren't any songs to make this a 10- or 11-track effort, but like I said, it would seem a bit more complete if there had been. The album as a a whole provided for an active experience, and the tracks were all notable individually, but as a whole, I did feel as if everything sounded a bit too similar. Still, I commend the band for keeping continuity a priority, something that some artists lose track of at times. Phoenix has something here that will definitely appeal to a lot of people, so I encourage music fans across the board to give it a listen. Similarities include the aforementioned Strokes, Ra Ra Riot and Voxtrot.
Best Track: "Countdown (Sick For The Big Sun)" (not up yet, but check out "Lisztomania")