Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hasn't Come Out Yet: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

release date: May 25, 2009

Just when I was about to give up on guitar pop... a beacon of hope.

Never mind how awful their album covers are, Phoenix are an unquestionably cool band. Ever since they rocked alongside Air in the Lost in Translation soundtrack, these French boys have been flirting with the possibility of becoming a great rock band. On Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, they've succeeded.

On past Phoenix albums, it's been hard to get past the halfway points. For whatever reason, their records always just fizzled out. WAP is still front-heavy, but the middle and end are pretty weighty too. By the end, it's a completely satisfying musical experience. It's impossible to know which of these 10 songs will end up stuck in your head on any given day, because they all contain some of the catchiest melodies and warmest harmonies you'll hear this year, but the most likely candidates are one of the first three tracks (it is still front-heavy after all).

The first track, Lisztomania combines assuredly un-virtuosic piano playing with summertime synths. It doesn't sound like Franz Liszt, nor is it reminiscent of The Who's experiment in film, but the track is nevertheless impressive. Right at the start, Phoenix proves that the beauty is in the subtle details. Complexity shows up nowhere on WAP, and Lisztomania sets the stage for a straightforward good time.

Next is 1901, a song that doesn't know if it's better than Lisztomania or not. The same tricks are used: jangly guitars, punchy vocals, a catchy chorus and a dancy beat. There aren't any surprises, yet the music is surprisingly engaging. From one song to the next, not much changes, but there's nothing to tire of either.

By the time track three hits, you're already convinced that you're listening to a great record. Fences is probably the sexiest song on the album, and even though it's much airier than the first two romping tracks, it's dancier. If there were ever a Lost in Translation Part 2, this would be the opening song. I could go on with each track, because they're all noteworthy, but it's more fun to just listen yourself.

Somehow, Phoenix already played SNL a couple weeks ago. Who knows how they scored that before having the time to prove that they're worthy of the hottest weekend slot on television, but they really do deserve a little more fame this year. Expect to see them on many more late night shows in the weeks to come, and maybe even on some top ten lists at the end of the year.

This is a seasonal album. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is perfect for warm summer nights at your friend's house party. Don't listen to it by yourself; the more people around to dance, the merrier.

(To hear the album's opener, Lisztomania, check out the top of the lala playlist on the right)

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