Phoenix :: "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix"

You may remember Phoenix’s single off of their fourth studio album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix in the intro to an episode (The Cleaning Lady Story) of the Enter The Shell Show. Don’t the crew have great taste? “1901” is a great song and the rest of the album is nothing less than that! This Franco foursome band is connected to Daft Punk in some crazy and kooky way, so these brains create great beats on top of their guitar/bass/drum-based band.

Like I said before, the band’s single “1901” is a spectacular song! A little guitar riff tip-toes around heavy synths and a dancy drum beat to get you moving immediately.  When I first heard this song, I couldn’t get enough! There’s so much going on, but the highlight for me are those heavy synths and the subtle submarine bleep that chimes in every once in awhile. The beginning of the chorus sounds heavy and all over the place with more guitars and less of an electronic feel if you exclude the single-toned synthesizer. But when lead singer Thomas Mars (who sounds like a cross between Coconut Records’ Jason Schwartzman and the Strokes’ Julian Casablancas) starts singing the incredibly catchy “Fallin’/Fallin’/Fallin’/Fallin'”, the synths, bleeps and dance beat come barreling back in and take you by storm! There’s nothing I love more than a great dance beat and Phoenix get it just right in “1901.”

In Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, the band has a tendency to change the pace. If you don’t like your concentration being broken, this may not be for you. The next track, “Fences“, is also a great song but the tempo is a lot slower and more mellow. The dark melody and Mars’ slow falsetto are a total turn around from the first two tracks, but the beat will still get you moving. I love the way the electronica aspect meshes with the guitar/bass feel of the band! The boys in Phoenix really know how to work their instruments, if you know what I mean!

Continuing on the path of changing pace, “Love Like a Sunset Part I” really does the job. Though you wonder where that great sound in “1901” went, this instrumental is full of haunting and quirky sounds (believe me, they make those two opposites work) that act as a masterpiece for your ears. I love hearing it full blast in my headphones because the sound just overwhelms you in a greatest way. It seems as though they’re experimenting with every little button and hiccup possible on their machines and though it’s considerably slower and a different feel from the beginning of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, it’s definitely a highlight. Especially when “Part I” merges into “Part II;” it suddenly becomes a big theatrical piece with slow vocals by Mars. This portion of the album could be troublesome for you, but only if you don’t have the patience. So be patient and appreciate it!

Don’t worry! The album picks up once again with “Lasso” then continues with “Rome.” The latter starts off slow but a nice mid-tempo drum beat kicks in and accents the great little muffled guitar melodies perfectly. Though “Rome” is another slower track, the chorus is great! The loud reverbed synths and repetitive “Rome/Rome/Rome …” pick up the energy a bit. Showing off their ability to switch it up yet again, the song begins to sound like a lullaby because the guitars are soft and light and Mars’ soft voice soothes you. I can’t decide where the heck Phoenix is going with this album, but it’s a great mix of sounds and tempos!

This is Phoenix’s fourth studio album so I’ll definitely be looking into their earlier stuff. I can only imagine the great sounds we’d get if guitarist Laurent Brancowitz had stayed with Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo (the guys who eventually became Daft Punk). Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is an album full of delicious treats for your ears and I strongly suggest you give it a whirl! I really wish I had listened to this sooner because I definitely would have included it in my best of 2009 list!

Buy the album at our record store on Amazon

I give it four out of five shells!

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