HYPE CHECK: Phoenix Makes a Strong Case For Indie Pop Crown At Sold-Out Terminal 5 Show

[Text/Photos by Andrew Parks]

The Artist and Their Current Album: Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (Glassnote)

What’s Been Said: “Though the album trips lightly from slinky roller-skate jams (‘Fences’) to near Brit-rocky rave-ups (‘Lasso’), the underlying vibe is both retro and somehow outside of time–like a memory made 
sweeter than the real thing it recalls.” – Entertainment Weekly, A- rating

“Its unflappable sonic sheen gives Wolfgang some winsome 80s nostalgia, but smart modern touches–a constant near-Auto-Tune vocal effect, Justice-lite keyboard stabs on ‘1901’–ensure its of-the-moment-ness…They’re pleasure-pushers, filling tunes with riffs, phrases, and beats a five-year-old could love.” – Pitchfork, Best New Music

“The group has polished its ’60s-rock-revivalist sound to near perfection, but keeps expanding its aural palette, experimenting with layered rhythms and sonic textures. Opener ‘Lisztomania’ captures the group at its peak: Sprightly rock rhythms and shimmering guitar licks intertwine beautifully with Thomas Mars’ lead vocals, which ruminate on musical fame throughout raucous verses and spare, keyboard-plinking choruses.” – Billboard

“Phoenix are what architects should dance to. Sleek minimalism. Clean lines. A propensity to wear white. Emotionally neutral but texturally rich–they’re the sound of Richard Rogers’ utopian future. If Brian Eno wanted to do Music For Airports Two, he’d just tape a Phoenix album with a bunch of gate announcements over it and spend the time he saved thinking up more policy proposals for the Lib Dems.” – NME

Our Take: As much as self-titled loves Of Montreal’s Ziggy Stardust turn as of late, we can understand why Kevin Barnes’ stage antics and gender politics can turn many people off. That’s why we’re going to make the claim no one else has dared utter–that Phoenix ’09 is like a neutered, French-fried Of Montreal, driven by hooks not histrionics.

Aside from that, you’re right, Billboard. “Lisztomania” is Phoenix’s shining moment, a fitting start to their live sets and the breakthrough LP they took nearly a decade to make.

The Verdict: It’s hard enough trying to pull off a decent set in the cavernous confines of Terminal 5, so the fact that Phoenix did just that with a lean indie pop approach is commendable indeed. Their touring drummer–whoever he is–also played his heart out, hammering the band’s steely beats home like an animatronic monkey. Hire and haze that guy, stat. Bonus points for the ambient passages and steady build of “Love Like a Sunset,” one of Wolfgang‘s rare sugar-free moments.