Album Review: “Ti Amo” by Phoenix
Pop and summer coincide in the French alt group’s newest album
My high school psychology teacher once explained alternative music as “guys with guitars in tight jeans singing about their ex-girlfriends.” It is hard to say that the French alt-rock band Phoenix doesn’t fit this criteria, but to pigeonhole them would be missing the bigger picture of their discography. Their latest album, “Ti Amo,” is a language hopping summer album, upbeat yet laid back in tone and style, that rides background guitar and foreground pop synth.
Phoenix has cultivated their sound over many years and even more studio sessions, slowly trickling out the typical alternative guitar so heavily featured on their first album, “United.” Seventeen years laterr and Phoenix has found its sound: a medley of smooth tunes and synthesizers.
“Ti Amo” is, as described by guitarist Laurent Brancowitz, “summer and Italian discos.” Phoenix made this official sound change after their most critically acclaimed album 2009’s “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” with 2013’s electric, almost buoyant, “Bankrupt!”
Phoenix started work on their latest LP in 2014, taking their time by experimenting with new sounds. A big change from previous LPs is the inclusion of new languages, with songs like “Goodbye Soleil” featuring entire choruses in French. Frontman Thomas Mars gets to flex all of his vocal abilities across multiple languages. The titular track features Mars singing the hook “Love you! Ti Amo! Je t’aime ! ¡Te quiero!” -- saying I love you in four different languages seamlessly to a subtle but catchy guitar riff. “Via Veneto,” the penultimate track, is almost entirely sung in Italian. All of this language blending and sound mixing could easily make for a messy album without structure; thankfully, it does not.
“Ti Amo” is a beautiful summer album. From the metallic, jive-inducing opener “J-Boy” to the closing “Telefono,” a love letter from Mars to his talented writer/director wife, Sofia Coppola.
If Phoenix’s goal was to make a long-lasting summer album for years to come, they very well may have succeeded and gone a step further. It is genuinely exciting to see a band’s progression over the years and who knows what comes next from the band out of Versailles. But until then, we have a wondrous album to pore over.