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The romantic disco-rock of Phoenix reaches ethereal heights on "Ti Amo."

Loyauté / Glassnote
"Ti Amo" is the sixth studio album by French disco-rock band Phoenix.
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ALBUM REVIEW: Phoenix – Ti Amo (Loyauté / Glassnote) 2017

Recently, while in a record store in Lyon, France (they seem to have a pretty healthy vinyl scene in France, which was good to discover), I picked up a CD copy of Alphabetical, the 2004 album from Paris-based band Phoenix.

I was vaguely familiar with the young, disco-rock band, and my interest increased after reading a fascinating interview with the band written by Jonathan Ringen, back in April, for The New York Times. The headline? “Phoenix’s new album arrives in a darker world, but the beat goes on.”

So, by the time I went to France, a week after the article was released, the band’s new album, titled Ti Amo, was not yet released. So, when I came upon that earlier album, Alphabetical, it whet my musical appetite, but would prove to be an earthier and more “indie-rock” album than the dance-pop confections I happily discovered on Ti Amo.

I began picking up some of the band’s back catalogue – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (2009) and Bankrupt! (2013) – and a former Red Dirt Report employee, nearly 20 years my junior, immediately recognized that 2009 release saying how much she loved Phoenix!

Granted, I skew toward older, more established bands, as often happens to people on the downside of their forties, but Phoenix has proven an exception. The songs, as the Times noted, is “unabashedly romantic” and “powered by a sleek, midtempo dance pulse and vibe” that one Phoenix band member said recalls “summer and Italian discos.”

After repeated listens this summer, I’ve discovered that Ti Amo fits perfectly into my summer album playlist, alongside Chris Rea, Jimmy Buffett, Sam & Dave, Phil Collins and Archers of Loaf – among many others.

“J-Boy,” (aka “Just Because of You”) the first single and first track on Ti Amo, is a synth-happy number with Mars singing, longingly, “Some things they don’t matter / till they matter to you,” while other lyrics have that bittersweet, post-apocalyptic beauty that seems almost timeless. A feeling that is hard to explain in words, but captured in song. Good work, guys!

“Tuttifrutti” (not to be confused with that Little Richard classic) is a somewhat dreamy synth-pop song with elements of Pet Shop Boys in their mid-80’s glory.

But Phoenix also embraces other Reagan-era synth-pop influences, like OMD, on tracks like “Fior di Latte.” What romantic young person could possibly resist Thomas Mars’ passionate vocal and the musical palette offered by guitarists Laurent Bancowitz and Christian Mazzalai and bassist Deck d’Arcy (also accompanied by longtime Phoenix studio drummer Thomas Hedlund of Cult of Luna and others).

Am I in love with Thomas Mars’ voice, which I mentioned earlier? Not entirely. But the smooth, synth feel and friendly beats make up for any of Mars’ vocal shortcomings.

Vocal affects are applied on “Via Veneto,” and give you the impression that Phoenix stayed up all night – having a good time – and just came up with this song – almost effortlessly.

And the multi-lingual head-bop-pop of “Telefono” has Mars wanting to “watch the ocean” and wondering how he can sleep when his lover is wide awake?

Songs like “Lovelife,” (which contains a sample from Chris and Cosey’s “October (Love Song)),” “Fleur de Lys” (which contains a sample of Fela Kuti’s “Expensive Shit”)  and “Goodbye Soleil” float by in an entirely appealing way. And while enjoying a soda pop while sitting by the swimming pool on a hot day without being drenched in sunscreen may be nice at the time, it’s not the healthiest thing to do.

But life is meant to be lived. And Phoenix clearly have that joie de vivre, being French and all. Plus, they look skinny and probably enjoy red wine and such. They are having fun on Ti Amo, with ethereal visions and dreams and loves and losses ... all, despite the shocking and depressing state of the world. 

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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