Phoenix are back, the synth-rock quartet from Versailles, France, have just released their sixth album ‘Ti Amo’ under the label Glassnote, Loyauté. Since their breakthrough with ‘Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix’ in 2009, the band associated with friends and acts like Daft Punk as well as Air bring us to an Italian dreamland full of love, sweetness and vacation-like nostalgia.
Releasing tracks “J-Boy”, “Ti Amo” and “Goodbye Soleil” as singles, we were hinted that the band wouldn’t move far from their sound on their last album ‘Bankrupt!’ (2013). The synths are ringing, melodies are sweet and glacé due to the theme of the album as well as main inspiration being gelato! Knowing the tense situation that’s happened in Paris the last few years, Phoenix’s touring life and other events going on around the world, the band wanted to find a happy place, somewhere romantic and fiction-dominated. Their efforts were focused on a fantasised Italy, which holds a charm that many will agree isn’t seen elsewhere – tales of love, gelato and nostalgia. The use of different languages has also brought on a modern, fresh taste of what Phoenix represent and what they want their music to be – open and multi-cultural.
“J-Boy” is synth-pop goodness, something we’ve seen with ‘Bankrupt’ (2013), that touches on grim moral themes of stealing and materialism whilst being wrapped up in some sort of cover regarding love being an unbreakable bond/feeling.
“Ti Amo” as Phoenix described the song itself, is a romantic song about the tragedy of unreciprocated love and desire, highlighted with the lyrics from different languages “Love you! Ti amo! Je t’aime! ¡Te quiero!” He’s head over heels for a girl which doesn’t love him back but in the end, he’s happy with that, dreaming they’ll be forever together saying he won’t take no for an answer.
“Tuttifrutti” is fruitful as it sounds, with synths laying the backbone to the melody with the guitars coming in to solidify a synth-pop jingle. “Fior Di Latte” is one of the most direct track in terms of their inspiration through gelato, suggesting a ‘come-on’ mood to it: “We’re meant to get it on… Fior di latte, triger me happy.” “Lovelife” is a sweet track about mistakes made but reminding that “I love you anyway”, promising to never leave them alone, through regrets and an apologetic theme. It was a bit short of a track, which made me feel like it didn’t have as much substance or real purpose in the album.
“Goodbye Soleil” feels like a pledge to a love as the night approaches, to listen to what he should say, to go back to what they use to be together, searching for answers singing in French: “De quelle façon, pour quelle raison, Dis-moi pourquoi comment j’étais, Rien qu’une seconde si seulement j’ai pas sommeil, Goodbye soleil.” The next tune “Fleur de lys” talks of rise and conquer, a certain determination of “no rest till I get to you”, its touch on the fleur de lys (used variously as an emblem in France) could relate this to politics/social order of some sort. Terrorizing your neighbour, I’m a Siberian tiger, I’ll always be an outsider, sounds like he’s an unlikely fighter of some sort but once again it rests on the theme of romance. “Role Model” calls out leaders, the song describes and repeats the same rhetoric but has ulterior motives, highlighting role models as not being who they appear to be, being deceitful (imaged through the chameleon line). “Via Veneto” named after one of Rome’s best-known luxurious street, the verse is smoothly laid out by dreamy vocals and synths painting a cool, wavy sound, singing “it’s a sin to be without you.” “Telefono” describes the pain of long-distance relationship, through jealousy or insecurity, something Thomas Mars must have inspired to write regarding his relationship with director Sofia Coppola, knowing he uses Hollywood and film industry references.
Overall, it’s good to see Phoenix back, their fruitful, pop and class French-touch is just what’s needed right now. I love the theme around this album and it just goes to show how creative the band can get, even though they may be keeping to the sound of ‘Bankrupt!’, their touch of simplicity regarding love, desire, lust and other emotions is fantastic. “It’s also a record about our European, Latin roots, a fantasied version of Italy,” the band explains in a press release, “a lost paradise made of eternal Roman summers (hyper-light, hyper-clarity, pistachio gelato), jukeboxes on the beach, Monica Vitti and Marcello Mastroianni, fearless desire and antique marble statues.” Whilst some songs don’t stick in your mind as easily as others, Phoenix has produced a voyage into pop-romance through Italy that will serenade you throughout the summer.