Band Appreciation Friday – Phoenix

I’d rather be alone

Phoenix was probably one of the very first bands that I discovered completely on my own, starting with their second album Alphabetical, which is why they will always be near and dear to my heart. While I love every single one of their five albums, for the sake of the length of this post I will only discuss the last three.

Phoenix is composed of french quartet Thomas Mars (vocals), Laurent Brancowitz (lead guitar), Christian Mazzalai (guitar), and Deck d’Arcy (bass). Three of them started out in a garage band when Brancowitz, Mazzalai’s older brother, joined in permanently after the end of his band Darlin’, where he performed with Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo (those two would later form the band Daft Punk). Two years later, Phoenix was born, and they released their first album, United, in 2000. My favorite from that album would definitely have to be “Summer Days.” Then, in 2004, Phoenix released their second album Alphabetical, where the amazing songs/singles “Run Run Run” and “Everything Everything” are from. These two albums proved to be the start of something new, and the band was just warming up.

It's_Never_Been_Like_ThatIt’s Never Been Like That was released in 2006, and was Phoenix’s third studio album. This album was meticulous but convoluted at the same time, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing when you actually listen to the album. What I mean by convoluted is that the tracks on this album could very well survive on their own when cut from it’s labels, and that they each have their own persona. I mean, take “Rally,” “Long Distance Call” and “Lost and Found.” All three of these songs are amazing, and they do ultimately flow together, but they each have their own qualities (yes, I’m aware that this is how all songs should be, but I’m desperately trying to find the words to explain further what I mean but I just can’t, so I apologize haha). Overall, It’s Never Been Like That seems still like a warm-up for Phoenix. It was still a bit coy, shied away from the light, and seemed to finish too soon, with the exception of one brilliant song.  “Consolation Prizes” is definitely the stand out track for this album, and in my opinion, it really is a nice bridge into their next project considering it had more of the electronic, jumpy melodies and unique lyrics that ran rampant in their next album.

Phoenix_-_Wolfgang_Amadeus_PhoenixWolfgang Amadeus Phoenix was released in 2009, and is probably Phoenix’s most popular album to date. The reason for this was because this album was when the iconic Phoenix sound came to be, meaning that this album contained the iconic complex techniques and brilliant musical style that people think of when they think of this particular band. This is also the album where Thomas Mars’s mellifluous voice began to mature and becomes something of a national treasure. It’s deep, personal, and sentimental, as heard in the very first line of the first single titled “Lisztomania.” This song is upbeat and bright, with bursts of synth and poppy guitar riffs, and it really sets up the second track “1901,” where deep, brooding bass lines darken the mood but intensify the overall electronic feel. The whole album had a sense of new-found confidence, and Phoenix started to take more risks, as seen in the track “Love Like A Sunset,” where the band takes a slower, more reserved sound into effect, which was different from their past sounds. “Lasso,” “Rome,” and “Girlfriend” have desirable qualities as well, and would have been perfect to end the album with, but I’m so glad that “Armistice” is the actual end. I adore “Armistice,” because it is the triumphant, majestic end to an amazing journey. It’s one last burst of energy and vitality before the silence, and the lyrics are some of my favorites. Overall, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix proved to be a album that wanted to praise the greats- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Liszt- and shows Phoenix’s yearning to become something bigger than themselves. They ultimately achieved that goal with the release of their latest album.

Phoenix_-_Bankrupt!_coverBankrupt! is Phoenix’s fifth and latest studio album, and it was released in 2013. This was when I believe Phoenix really remained true to their name and nobly rose from the ashes of their last album (not that their last album collapsed into ashes to begin with, but quite the opposite) and arose more fiery and ruthless than ever. There were no individual members of this band anymore, but rather a powerful, unrelenting force that seemed to grow stronger with each and every song as this album went on. However, each member really brings their all to the scene to provide the most intense melodies and beats that have ever been recorded from this band. Thomas Mars had always been the every man, the one you could relate to the most, and his songwriting and singing abilities were never as dynamic as it is now, simply because it manages to express many emotions at once. “Entertainment,” a song whose inspiration stems from the obvious, is the first track from this amazing album, and is perfect as an opener because it almost shines with brilliance as you play it. It is followed with the racing “SOS In Bel Air” and the anthem “Trying To Be Cool” a song that always succeeds in making me want to dance. “Drakkar Noir” is definitely one of my favorites from this album because it utilizes Thomas Mars’s rare high falsetto voice and is extremely sophisticated. “Chloroform” is a combination of sharp, metallic beats and “Oblique City” is an exceptional ending. Overall, Bankrupt! is one of my absolute favorite albums of any artist, and always impresses me, no matter how many times I listen to it. It’s more refined, and the sounds are cleaner and more approachable, but still manages to be different, and ultimately blow any listener familiar with their older albums away.

Phoenix, I’ve noticed, always manages to sound like a celebration. A celebration of life, of love, even when either of those concepts are on the verge of slowly collapsing. Their music is always unique and empowering, which is because the guitar, drums, and perfect synth beats that propel each and every song never ever fail or falter. That’s the other thing about Phoenix. They are unbelievably resilient and relentless, a quality when done correctly, can completely dominate over anything, both musically and professionally. Phoenix also has a lot of sentimental value to me because it’s a band I really enjoy with my best friends, and I actually got to see them in a packed concert one year with one of them. It was an experience unlike any other, and really solidified the positive feelings I have towards Phoenix. This band has definitely gotten me through some rough times in my life, and has continued to even recently. I know that whatever happens with this band in the future, the memories I have made with them will never fail to make me happy. So thank you, Phoenix. Thank you.

 

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