Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
At last, Phoenix releases an album that isn't going to have anyone looking back and saying, "My, wasn't that just quite the underappreciated little record." What changed? I'll tell you. These songs are simply the most anthemic they have ever unleashed upon the music listening public. Just totally massive, reclaiming the unstoppable quality of "Too Young" nearly a whole decade after the fact. Which is not to say that Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is an obvious pick for best Phoenix album. It just sees them finally piecing a number of elements together that hadn't necessarily gelled so well on previous outings.
The band is still favoring guitar based rock music, but also allows keyboards to make a triumphant return. The remaining guitar parts tend to click along with the basslines rather than provide any of the gritty rock revival jangle found on It's Never Been Like That, while the synths act as a heavenly buzzy stream for everything to happily float along. Such arrangements and the modern yet crystal clear production that they're filtered through reveal Phoenix's remarkable talent for crafting moments that can allow their songs to truly breathe, whether these moments are found in dynamic switches or in the blissfully soaring turns taken by the vocal melodies. The latter is what makes the second half of this record so special, as the group makes a potentially stifling choice to squeeze five songs of similar tempo all together but the way they all stop running together after a few listens and the individual hooks start swimming around your brain begging you to place them in their rightful positions makes it seem more like a nonstop love fest for your pop music boner than anything else. I have witnessed a number of people getting behind each of these five tracks as the great unsung hero of the album, some saying "Armistice," some "Countdown," some "Girlfriend" (my personal favorite), some "Lasso," some "Rome." All are equally deserving of the title.
And then there's that first half. Who other than true masters would kick off their record with two ass groping hit singles, an album track that's sexier than either, and then a seven and a half minute slice of tension and release synth brilliance that sounds like... bubblegum Steve Reich? What might happen if every mainstream pop/rock hit had to pass through the hands of Emeralds before hitting the radio? Something like one or both of those. And it works. Everything here does, in fact. The whole record is a delicious slab of melodic wonderment that reminds one of just how pleasurable (and surprisingly durable) the best crafted pop can be. Stick this one in the changer with Love vs. Money and Raditude and 2009 is gonna start seeming like the apex of that hooks upon hooks upon hooks spectrum of music enjoyment.
Phoenix isn't just some shitty indie rock band. They're pros and they're cranking out the instant pop classics with more confidence than ever. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix should be huge enough for your mom to own a copy or two. I used to say that about Spoon albums but those are starting to sound like coma inducing garbage when put up against Phoenix's decade of would-have-been-hits-in-a-popular-music-landscape-that's-more-fair-than-the-one-we-have-going-at-the-moment (not to crap all over the current popular music landscape... just sayin'.) Throughout the past decade, we've seen them continually enhance the greatness that was there from the very start. Here's to this gloriously reliable melody factory keeping it up well into the '10s.
Download Link: Incubus - "Stellar"