Phoenix’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix earns 4 out of 5 stars
The French quartet’s fourth studio album rips off not only Mozart’s name sake but also his unadulterated style. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is a composition of catchy ballads, orchestrated with dance pop ditties and heavy synths. The throwback to German romantic composers is the sort of puckish impudence that moves a limb or two. As it should.
Arguably, the album’s opener, “Lisztomania” is this summer’s belting roll-down-the-car-window hit for the Vampire Weekend crowd. “Darling I’m down and lonely” Phoenix’s front man, Thomas Mars croons in his ever-disaffected manner. Gloriously infectious, it is this kind of melodious case of the travesties that defy (or perhaps reinforce?) the Stokes comparisons. It only takes one spin to know why.
The use of falsettos (none more prevalent than in “Fences”) doesn’t seem to hurt either. They seem to be very popular in recent indie releases (think MGMT, Passion Pit). Still, they didn’t just land an SNL on high octaves alone. “1901” and “Rome” add to the ridiculously vivid guitar melodies. Both warrant continuous plays: the first, grandeur of hooks and likely successor to the season jam; the second, complete with snare hits and a riveting outro. So encouraging, it almost seems a shame not to live it up.
But the album’s best hit yet is “Lasso.“ From a whole album devoted to the eternally lovelorn, this one tears a new heartache. Where would you go with a lasso?” Mars inquires, “Could you go and run into me?” Is he wooing a cowgirl? No matter, the nostalgia is enough to encourage any silly old unpretentious fool to try his hand at love—only to be left listless and unfulfilled.
“Love Like a Sunset” has a reminiscent Air-like quality, which not surprising since it was Mars who was the voice behind “Playground Love.” (Incidentally, the song was used in The Virgin Suicides, directed by Thomas’s domestic companion and baby’s momma, Sofia Coppola). Over three-fourths through, the song diverges into a dreamy territory, though it is quite satisfying. It’s actually the sultriest bit of fun to come from the French since Charlotte Gainsbourg.
Dance me, Amadeus. Though Phoenix have been a staple in indie rock for quite some time, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is an innocently new beat, and is a craft in its own right, having been already labeled by many as one of the best records of the year.
Reports of their death have been greatly exaggerated. This Phoenix refuses to die.
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