Ever since the inauguration of the 21st century, frontman Thomas Mars and the French band Phoenix have made it a habit of devising collections of lustrous synth pop for audiences to bask in. With Phoenix’s latest release “Ti Amo” coming four years after their critically acclaimed ‘Bankrupt!,” the French quartet sheathes audiences with a vibrant playlist of glistening soundscapes and euphoric dance numbers. Unfortunately, a lackluster second half of the album leaves listeners yearning for more
From “J-Boy” onward, this album plays off its Italian influence fervently as the production value breathes youth, European summer and romantic paradise. Yet, heartbreak and darker imagery contrasts — lurking behind the shimmery sonic curtains to provide “Ti Amo” a complexity that must be grasped through numerous listens.
The album’s honeyed follow up to “Bankrupt!” is glitzy, bubbly and comes with a European attitude set forth by a Nu-Disco twist. The title track’s usage of different languages within the chorus, “Love you! Ti amo! Je t’aime! Te quiero!” initiates a contradictory tone, an earnest and urgent yearn for love — a universal love, indiscriminate of ethnic/language barriers. Ultimately, the album broods as an ambiguous romantic tragedy unhinged by unrequited love. Interestingly enough the album plays well alongside his wife’s (Sofia Coppola) timeless film “Lost in Translation,” which deals with similar motifs of the plurality of love and loneliness.
While the title track deceives playfully, ”J-Boy” pushes straight ahead with a glitchy medley of synths, peppered by bodiless vocal work from Mars. In the past, Phoenix integrated disco pop into their sound. “Tuttifrutti” furthers the band’s heightened approach of happy/sad disco and embodies an italian undercurrent that fits the album’s concept. The track brandishes a crisp, clean and glossy image that mutinies the lyrical content which characterizes “Ti Amo” as a whole.
Even if the first half of the album is the most exuberant of joy rides, the overarching sheen and plasticity eventually overbears the listener. Soon, the synthetic incandescence becomes a schmaltzy, synthetic overload and the copious amounts of cheerful melodies make it hard to pigeon-hole each track’s unique artistry. Accordingly, the album’s summer vacation in the Mediterranean and quest for love feels short-lived, failing to capture the grandeur vigor of previous releases (Wolfgang Amadeus and Bankrupt), let alone the first half of “Ti Amo.”
In spite of the second part of this project flaunting rehashed lyrical content and invariant soundscapes, there remains ethereal subtleties to each track that salvages Phoenix’s sixth studio release.
The French quartet of Phoenix has always found a way to craft nuanced, feel-good synth pop, In comparison to the more grandeur “Bankrupt!,” this project peaks as a sinewy record that harkens back to some of the band’s brighter moments in “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.” Comparably, “Ti Amo” feels more streamlined and airy in its approach — prepared to drench its listeners in shimmering synths and colorful pop song hooks. Phoenix’s latest is a deceptively light album that offers sterile, indie synth-pop that confines heartbreak through charismatic escapism.