Since releasing 2009’s ‘Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix’, the French indie pop band seemingly changed their musical direction, swapping their Strokes-esque guitar riffs for glitzy sugary synths that they embraced in the follow up ‘Bankrupt’. A move that romanticized Phoenix’s previously playful bouncy guitar lines into a more mature and adult synth pop approach. ‘Ti Amo’ is a firm reminder that Phoenix are not likely to release another ‘Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix’ anytime soon, but with the honey coated nature of this release, its hard to criticise them for shifting their artistic approach to reflect their current mood and experiences as individuals.
In a press release, Phoenix stated that ‘Ti Amo’ is about their ‘European and Latin roots, a fantasized version of Italy’. This reigns true over the course of the albums 36 minutes, filled to the brim with romantic and love-struck references of ‘pistachio ice cream’ and ‘gelato’, mirroring the smooth vocal melodies and funky bass lines that flow out like the spoken of dreamy Italian metaphors. A sense of optimism is found in this album, and with the context of guitarist Christian Mazzali’s experiences with the Bataclan massacre in 2015, the record holds a poignant image of hope in times of darkness. With its summery sounds and glossy Mediterranean lyrics, Phoenix are offering a sense of escape from troubled turmoil that has embraced the world in recent years.
With fans guessing where the bands direction would turn to after the release of ‘Bankrupt’, Phoenix reinstated their newfound disco based sound yet again with lead single ‘J-boy’, a track that is built around frontman Thomas Mars vocal hook of ‘just because of you’. Being the lead single off the album, the tone of the project is set immediately, displaying the romantic melodies and Italian cultural references that are seeded into the lyrics. ‘But you talked them into letting me go, it’s no Picasso, Michelangelo’ bears Mars, highlighting the references that would go on to be embedded throughout the albums 10 tracks. ‘Ti Amo’ is constructed around the same formula that the bands previous albums follow, with 10 carefully put together tracks built around synth based leads and falsetto hooks that echo throughout. Each track seemingly merges into the next, leaving a complete package that occasionally begs for more due to unfilled and unmemorable tracks. A sense of flatness is found in tracks such as ‘Via Veneto’, with easily forgetful bouncy synths echoing throughout. Whilst ‘Ti Amo’ is a record that links its 10 tracks effortlessly, a sense of un-precision is scattered, which is a shame considering the huge moments found in the filled out lead tracks ‘Tuttifrutti’ and ‘J-Boy’.
Being an album built around sweet vocal hooks and synth lines, one thing that has to be mentioned is the repetitive nature of the album. Whilst the tracks seemingly blend together consistently enough to give a recognizable sound to the album, this ultimately holds its flaws in the fact that the tracks sound just too similar. Listening to the album back to back holds the same feeling as it would if it was on shuffle, with each track almost undistinguishable from the last. This being said, it is hard not to appreciate the production that has gone into this work, with bouncy filtered drums and funky Jamiroquai style bass lines coming through with crisp precision. The vocal production found in track ‘Fleur De Lys’ is a prime example of the sound phoenix are embracing in this album, with a reverb that echoes old school 70’s disco music, a homage to lost nights on the dancefloor and romantic escapes.
Phoenix are ultimately sticking to their roots with this album, using glitzy descending synth progressions and the same honeyed pop production that is found on previous works. Tracks like ‘Ti Amo’ still hold the same chunky chord progressions that are found in older tracks such as ‘Armistice’, and Mars’s vocal delivery found in tracks such as ‘Telefono’ still holds the same candy filled delivery that stretches back as far as the ‘United’ sessions. Those looking for a revolutionary new Phoenix sound will be left disappointed, with this album holding many qualities found in previous work Bankrupt, kicking out any hope of a next ‘Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix’ that fans have been craving ever since its release 8 years ago. As well as this, ‘Ti Amo’ misses lots of potential, with track ‘Lovelife’ being used as an example, with its hollow sound that can be seen as lazily un-developed. The ascending cartoony swell found on this track is repeated to the extent where the band seemingly leave the sound at an inconsistent bland level that is begging to be fleshed out. This lazy nature is also seen in track ‘Fior Di Latte’, with repetitive drum loops feeling un-fleshed out and underwhelming.
Meaning ‘I love you’ in Italian, ‘Ti Amo’ offers comfort in times of need in a seductive and romantic nature not found in many other new politically charged records. Overall, a decent summer record that occasionally begs to be developed into something more grandiose and fleshed out.