Versailles rock band Phoenix are back with their sixth studio album Ti Amo, which for those not familiar with Italian or international terms of endearment, translates to “I love you.” The French ensemble that is remembered by the average person for Litsztomania, have created music on this album that is far from the indie rock sound emanated in their hit single, which may disappoint fans that fall into this category. Ti Amo is an album that aurally encapsulates what was intended, summer nights, dancing, Italy, falling in love and the passion of affection, all wrapped up in a packaging of synth pop with elements of Phoenix’s typical instrumentation as the bow. However, before these fans discard Ti Amo and interpret the album as cliché or unusual compared to the classic Phoenix, it is vital that the public is educated of the premise of this LP. Ti Amo came out of the dark hours of France’s horrific reality where it was difficult for anyone to see optimism, but since the word cliché has already been mentioned in this sentence, it is fortunate that one phrase can accurately summate the result of Ti Amo “love conquers all.”
Ti Amo opens typically with the first single of the album J-Boy, a track that encapsulates the Italian disco feel with all the right ingredients: falsetto vocals, video game like synths and large drums. However, the pace of this song is not quite John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, but one that eases into the album, like the first song for the club night. J-Boy sets the tone for the rest of the album, as being closer to the electro – pop sound, rather than Phoenix’s classic early indie music that non- fans are familiar with.
With a sweet bass introduction that has spoken vocals, Phoenix are here to dance and awkwardly pick up attractive lovers in Ti Amo, hitting the electronic sound on the head. The “don’t tell me” phrase is frequently repeated as a common, well used tactic in many singles, this provides a nice hook for the listener and is a second single that consolidates (not just in the title of the track) the musical and lyrical theme of the album, whilst the first gets the listeners attention.
Third time lucky is the case with Tuttifrutti, a track that highlights how Phoenix’s classic sound has not been lost with a rhythmic bass combined with a guitar riff and minimal synth. Tuttifrutti has an instrumentation heading in one glorious direction, but overall it is the bouncy, easy to sing along sound of the song that is a resemblance to Bankrupt! songs such as Trying To Be Cool.
Fior di Latte has an intro that slows the pace of the album down, really proving the Ti Amo existence in this album. This is validated through the syncopated groove, instrumental cuts and beautiful romanticism provided by the string strummed guitar. Fior di Latte can almost fit into an RnB category, with Phoenix’s typically catchy chorus but slow jam drum beat. This romanticism continues in Love life, as the mood has now been set for love – even if it is a corny track that can be played on a love song dedications radio show. The added pinball noises whilst resembling the ecstatic fluttering of a lover’s heart is just plain annoying in this mellow love song.
Goodbye Soleil the third single continues with that same synth sound (like a whistle), same drum and bass and same everything really, thank goodness for the distorted guitar that is a breath of fresh air and adds nicely to the cheesy love sound. Fleur de Lys overall brings another fresh breath to the same air, with a well-selected synth and classic indie sound, not too similar to that of a video game or whistle.
Role Model starts brilliantly with the low organ and emphasis on the vocals, a genuine sound that gives listeners a chance to hear what the singer really thinks and is complemented nicely in the second verse with the correct drum beat. The chorus despite its variety and difference to the verses is quite unnecessary, the song could of kept with the same theme without this explosion of sound. The guitar and voice overs later in the song make up for this, overall one of the best songs on the album.
Via Veneto brings music that first appears to have come out of a Zelda soundtrack, but after a second listen has a great mellow instrumentation that with some clearer vocals could make a truly beautiful song. Telefono wraps the album up nicely, with a crescendo to open the song that emits on the major keys to happiness, to close this vortex of love and beauty amidst even the greatest darkness of the world.
As has been stated, for those more familiar with Phoenix’s classic sound, that embodies The Strokes, Franz Ferdinand and all things British indie, this album may disappoint. Their electric sound is not quite MGMT and Ti Amo has got many tracks where the objective is adoration but the result is a corny love song. But on the positive, this album was written amongst the terror and disaster that France endured from terrorism, Christian Mazzalai (guitarist) was actually locked down in the studio after the Bataclan attack whilst recording the album. That is why Ti Amo, a song about love and the nostalgia of better times in the picturesque Italy, despite what may seem corny, is actually a beacon of light and happiness in the reality of Phoenix’s environment. Who better than Phoenix with their comforting, brightly sounding music to bring optimism to this situation, ideal for all French listeners, those going through a tough time and just lovers in general.