Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Phoenix has been creating music since the mid-nineties and made their debut recording in 2000; but Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, their fourth LP, displays them at their best to date. The release’s powerful, intricate modern pop may not resemble either of the classical composers it references – Mozart in its title and Liszt on the song “Lisztomania;” the video for the latter was even filmed at Bayreuth! But the audacity and exuberance of these gestures to such luminous predecessors, in their own way, ring true.
Certainly, synth pop signatures remain a fixture of Phoenix’s sound, as is abundantly evident on songs like the aforementioned “Lisztomania” and “1901;” “Rome” is even more New Wave-inflected than is their usual wont. But on “Love Like a Sunset, Pt. 1,” the group strays into solidly art rock territory, creating a memorable, occasionally prog-influenced, instrumental. The piece is a synthetic tone poem that is considerably attractive. When its short coda, “Love Like a Sunset, Pt. 2,” reintroduces Thomas Mars’ vocals, the effect is dislocating; the music seems to have traveled so far away from the single-ready fare one’s already heard him sing.
Range, subtlety, memorable tunes, and name-dropping Franz and Wolfie in Richard’s playground; what’s not to like?