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The Big Takeover #80 Spring 2017
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Phoenix - Ti Amo (Glassnote Records)

Phoenix - Ti Amo
16 June 2017

With gargantuan hooks and by-the-books pop conventions, Ti Amo is inarguably Phoenix’s most commercial sounding effort to date. Commerciality doesn’t have to be a negative thing though, especially for Thomas Mars and company, who have been exporting these groove gems since they only mattered enough to score a coveted spot on the Shallow Hal soundtrack. No matter the size of clout behind the music, the truth is that this quartet from Versailles nobly never changes up the formula. They’re crate diggers at heart, even going so far as to include the line, “I was playing classics by The Buzzcocks/Battiato and Lucio” in the titular track, and akin to fellow European nu-disco patron saint Todd Terje, they have always held a penchant for ancienne keyboards featuring sounds either completely unheard of or so far from memory that their utterances at once earn a retro chic element – Phoenix are masters at selecting gear of the utmost coolness.

This knack has never been so apropos as on “Goodbye Soleil,” the album’s best moment. Its opening staccato notes appear to be recycled almost directly from “J-Boy” to more fitting ends, shortly joined by an ensnaring synth backing that lives somewhere in between Gary Wright’s “Dream Weaver” and the score to Dragon Warrior Monsters II. So much of this LP’s lyricism is sex-fueled and seductive (even going so far as to compare the touch of a lover’s skin to mozzarella!) and given that French has long been considered the so-called language of love, it only helps that Mars sings a considerable amount of the record in his native tongue – this song included. Its multilingual flirtation, eerily mesmerizing synths, and imagery of day transitioning into night make for an unforgettably sexy standout with so-wrong-but-so-right mystique; nothing normally synonymous with Phoenix, but a perfect song in its own ability.

And of course, where would they be without Mars’s outstandingly danceable poetry. The band’s grip on the English language would have you fooled when it comes to interviews, but damn it if they don’t know the secret to an excellent internal rhyme, e.g. “Wreck the spectacle you live in” from “Tuttifrutti.” Yet amid references to Buzzcocks and “trashing motels,” the rowdiest Phoenix has ever gotten is in the awkwardly overzealous “Party Time” from debut United, and that’s just fine because that’s not who they are. Ti Amo is a vastly different beast than its two predecessors, whereas they were beasts that balanced pop and progressive rock ambition, and their latest offering is purposefully a beast on the dancefloor. It’s the aural equivalent of a by all means successful – and at times particularly elating – booze cruise.

You may purchase the record here.

 

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