Phoenix - Bankrupt 12 inch
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Phoenix are a total anachronism-- can you name another post-millennial power-pop band of thirtysomethings that made the jump from cult curio to festival headliners 10 years and four albums into their career? But if their trajectory feels old-fashioned, the French foursome are so perfectly emblematic of our present. Sure, you could chalk up the surprise, runaway success of 2009's Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix as some fortuitously timed, crossover-appealing fusion of big-tent indie anthems and glossy synth sheen; but then, this band has embraced huge hooks and smooth moves since day one. Really, Phoenix started making the big dollars once they stopped making sense: By intensifying the jiterry energy introduced on 2006’s It’s Never Been Like That, with Wolfgang, they perfected an ADD-via-ESL approach to pop that matched the pace of our hyperactive, distracted, smartphone-sucking lives.
And through that process, Thomas Mars’ lyrics became Phoenix’s most frivolous yet essential quality. Once a heart-on-sleeve romantic, the frontman now revels in jabbering out seemingly intelligible, ultimately inscrutable streams of words, starting one sentence only to finish another, as if he writes songs by making random copy-and-paste errors. Phoenix songs are that party conversation you weren't really paying attention to or didn't fully understand, but to which you nod in agreement anyway; you don't so much sing along as tentatively mouth along, like when you're doing karaoke and realize you don't know the words to your favorite song. Part way through the band’s fifth album, Bankrupt, Mars even drops a kooky chorus line that doubles as an advertisement for the band’s addictively tuneful disarray: “It’s a jingle jungle/ Jingle junkie-junkie jumble.”