Until earlier this spring, it had been four years since French indie-pop quartet Phoenix released new music or toured the globe to bring its dreamy, danceable tracks—as hit song “Lisztomania” says—to the masses. With the band’s sixth album, Ti Amo, on the horizon and a Las Vegas tour stop at Brooklyn Bowl happening on June 14, we mined the band’s catalog to build an essential Phoenix playlist.
Phoenix broke out onto the indie scene with a few singles before its 2000 release, United, an album full of funk-inspired tunes (if you can’t hear a little Jamiroquai in fan favorite “If I Ever Feel Better,” give it another listen). The band quickly garnered major media play with lead single “Too Young,” which was featured in early aughts films Lost in Translation and Shallow Hal. With its dreamy synths, grooving guitar work and catchy chorus—can’t you hear it calling/ everybody’s dancing—the song is quintessentially Phoenix.
“Run Run Run”
For its 2004 sophomore Alphabetical album, the band went with a mostly stripped-down sound. Driving guitar melodies and frontman Thomas Mars’ smooth vocals were still present, especially on its second single “Run Run Run.” This track’s rhythm is nothing short of contagious.
“One Time Too Many”
Phoenix opted for a grittier, rock-heavy sound for 2006’s It’s Never Been Like That, which resulted in charting tracks and a nod from Pitchfork in its Top 50 albums of the year. While singles “Long Distance Call” and “Consolation Prizes” likely contributed to that mainstream success, we’re hoping “One Time Too Many” makes the set list Wednesday night at Brooklyn Bowl. Though the lyrics let us know this track is about a breakup, the bouncy, surf rock-tinged tune should have the crowd on its feet in no time.
“From a mess to the masses.” That line from “Lisztomania,” the lead track on the band’s 2009 Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix release, gives you a pretty good idea of what the album would come to be for Phoenix. Wolfgang received critical accolades and commercial success, likely due to the fact that the quartet really seemed to sharpen its songwriting and hit its stride in finding an undeniably catchy indie-pop sound.
This was a more mature Phoenix—a Phoenix that would go on to top the Billboard Alternative Songs chart, take home the best alternative album award at the 2009 Grammys and, for the first time ever, have an album certified gold. With lyrics that drip nostalgic romanticism, two dramatic builds and a sparkly sheen on the entire production, “Rome” might just be the best track on Wolfgang—here’s hoping Mars and crew opt for it during their Las Vegas stop.
“S.O.S. in Bel Air”
Phoenix went on a bit of a hiatus after the success of Wolfgang, but they emerged in 2013 with the experimental Bankrupt! While staying true to its disco-y, synth-laced pop roots, the album saw the band exploring new sounds and styles. Dynamic in both of those novelties, the danceable “S.O.S. in Bel Air” is a great example of what was accomplished.
While we’re still waiting for Phoenix’s upcoming Ti Amo album, guitarist Laurent Brancowitz recently told The New York Times the work should bring to mind “summer and Italian discos.” Two singles have already been released, and while the title track definitely has a grooving disco beat, lead single “J-Boy” just feels like Phoenix. You can imagine Mars crooning and Brancowitz shredding onstage at a 1970s Italian discotheque. The track is musical escapism at its best.
With the Lemon Twigs, June 14, 7:30 p.m., $35–$65, Brooklyn Bowl at The Linq Promenade, brooklynbowl.com/las-vegas