I told myself I would never write another long-winded essay/rant thing on tumblr again, bu Phoenix is one of my favorite bands, and I just had to give my two cents. Yes, the album isn’t out right now, but you can get it through torrenting and probably a few streams hidden online somewhere. The torrent is only 256 kbp/s (at least the one I got), so for a leak the quality is fine, but I’m still picking up a real copy of the CD; it’s probably worth it.
Phoenix has been on fire ever since Wolf A. Phoenix dropped, and the sudden increase in popularity is mind blowing; they even picked up a headlining act for Coachella this year, to my utter amazement. I was surprised since I never felt that the band was the type to get big, but I was definitely happy for them anyways. I also felt that the surge in recognition would also mean a bigger, better album in Bankrupt!, but that is definitely not the case; I feel certain that Bankrupt! will not garner Phoenix any more fans. I’m not saying the music is bad (it’s actually good), but it doesn’t come anywhere close to W.A.P. The sound is that of a band trying to become more niche and smaller (more “indie” I guess, if that makes any sense). The music is still indie pop, but it is an album devoid of singles, which is what lifted WAP to such great heights. If you felt that Entertainment was a let down single (which it is), you might be disappointed to know that it is one of the more immediate songs on the album. From that judgment I already feel that this album will escape the attention of the public. Also, unlike “1901” and “Listzomania”, “Entertainment” is not perfect, so there’s the argument of quality as well.
The sound is dramatically different, and if you are a Phoenix fan I guarantee that you will be confused after the first play-through. You see, the album is incredibly synth-heavy. I’ve listened to the album 8-10 times already, and I can count the number of times a guitar is heard with my fingers. The absence of a guitar means the absence of any driving force, which is what I assume they were going for, since the music is far more subdued and detail focused than anything Phoenix has done so far. There’s some very risky stuff done here too, like the strange hook in “Trying to be Cool” which will cause some divisiveness amongst music listeners for sure, but all in all the synth parts are fine, going in and doing their job well. I guess I’m still butthurt about the guitars. Some of the sounds feel worn and tired though; I can spot some Passion Pit and Michael Jackson bits in there, though the latter makes sense since the album was mixed with the same console used for MJ’s Thriller. In the end, the focus on the synths creates less memorable songs, which is a strange move for a headlining rock band.
As far as lyrics go, I’m kinda disappointed. There is a degree of intimacy in It’s Never Been like That and WAP that is absent here. There are no songs like “Rally” or “Rome” to pluck at your heartstrings, and nothing relate-able like “Lasso” or “Long Distance Call”. I also feel that making the songs more cultured (listen to Entertainment if you haven’t already) is a bad move, and can only put the band a step behind. I guess my disappointment comes from the fact that a band that is continually rising decides to step down from their ascending throne and please the indie crowd. This album will surely result in a loss of momentum for Phoenix, which sucks for me, since I want to see all my favorite bands become popular, but oh well.
But oh well INDEED, since the album is still good. If the first five tracks drag on for you (like they did for me), you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how fast the last half goes by. The album ends off with more ambition than it started with, with tracks like “Bourgeois” and “Oblique City” being personal favorites. The hooks are excellent and unfamiliar; pretty much every song is catchy, with the exception being the title track, an experimental instrumental acting as the half way relaxation point in the vein of Love Like a Sunset in WAP. This album is a grower, and every listen brings new delights (<— corny but true!). I can’t wait to pick up the real album, and hopefully be exposed to more details lost in the leaked rip. If you can shed your expectancies of a grandoise, majestic pop feast, you’ll probably enjoy this album. It doesn’t try too hard, and that’s what makes it so likable.