Album Review: Phoenix – Ti Amo

By on Monday, 12th June 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

Phoenix Ti Amo album coverPhoenix are in good company: with Daft Punk and Air, they are the other French act who have reached the heady heights of global stardom. Since the mainstream success of their Grammy-winning ‘Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix’ in 2009, it’s been natural that any new music from the alt-rock/dance band led by vocalist Thomas Mars has been met with much fanfare. Four years on from ‘Bankrupt!’ and its odd fruit-themed cover, they have returned with ‘Ti Amo’.

The title is the Italian expression for deep and profound love, and the Gallic scenesters are directing their amorous thoughts to their neighbors to the east. ‘Tuttifrutti’ and ‘Fiore Di Latte’ are an Italian dessert and cheese, respectively, while ‘Via Veneto’ is the Rodeo Drive or Kings Road of Rome. But we’re not here for an episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. The slow, easy buzz of synths ushers in opener ‘J-Boy’, the earliest taster of the LP prior to its release last week. While its shiny synth notes gives the track a most welcome summery feel, the single maintains a steady tempo throughout, never reaching a climax. Neither does ‘Tuttifrutti, for that matter.

Oddly for a band like Phoenix who have been hugely popular for the songs their fans like to pogo to, they’ve chosen to go barer on several tracks here, which come across either as lazy, experiments gone wrong or attempts to follow their down tempo mates Air’s success. It seems strange following the punch in the face that ‘Entertainment’ and ‘Drakkar Noir’ from 2014’s ‘Bankrupt!’ were. Mid-life crisis, perhaps? Mars’ echoey vocals sound dreamlike on ‘Via Veneto’, and it’s only the animated synth notes on here that give the number any life. On the slow-moving ‘Role Model’, he takes on the role of bystander as he explains the celebrity life isn’t all its cracked up to be. The subject matter is likely mirroring real life than you might think: all fathers and family men now, they’re sure to have realised there’s more to life than being pop stars temporarily on the top of the heap.

Things move slightly more upbeat on some of the other tracks, which will resonate with the dance, ‘1901’-loving fans of Phoenix. On ‘Ti Amo’ standout ‘Fleur De Lys’, a heart-pumping, Fela Kuti rhythm thuds incessantly while Mars and his falsetto go political. It appears to be sympathetic to the local who’s judged as an outsider for his intelligence and independence, in the face of the right-wing nationalists who almost took control of their country a few weeks ago. Disco-tinged title track ‘Ti Amo’ has Oriental-sounding guitar flourishes, while the lyrics are directed towards a tease. Let’s just say Mars sounds…frustrated. While ‘Fior Di Latte’ is firmly back in the down tempo camp, its sleazy lyrics of “we’re meant to get it on” and “all other acts are for idiots / come on, come on, come and provide it” match the oozy, wonky compressed synth patterns. Am I getting old? Is this supposed to be a come-on? Groan.

Phoenix’s latest feels unquestionably like a summer record should. The question you should ask yourself is the kind of summer you want to have and what album you want to soundtrack it with. If you’re looking for dance floor banger after banger, there’s others out there more worthy of your time, money and attention. If you’re a fan of the slow jam, then ‘Ti Amo’ might just be for you.

6/10

‘Ti Amo’, Phoenix’s sixth studio album, is out now on Glassnote Records. The French band are playing a few shows this week on the West Coast of America; they head back east to play Glastonbury on the 24th, then loads of festivals in Europe, Asia and even Mexico through the end of the year. For more of TGTF’s past coverage on Phoenix, follow this link.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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