Genre: Indie Pop, Synth Pop, Alternative Pop
Top Tracks: Entertainment, Trying to Be Cool, S.O.S. in Bel-Air, Bourgeois, Drakkar NoirThe French Indie-Pop band Phoenix have largely gained international fame and more popular reputation after the release of their fourth studio album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, in 2009. This album featured fast-paced, happy tracks like "1901" and "Lisztomania" which proved to be huge radio smash hits here in the United States, and subsequently opened the road for Phoenix to become a much larger band. Now, the band is fresh off of headlining the Coachella Music Festival in Los Angeles and playing Saturday Night Live.
All of this was in preparation of the release of the band's highly anticipated follow-up, Bankrupt! I'm sure the band felt a great deal of pressure from fans, record company executives, and honestly even themselves to make this album as good as Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. Unfortunately, that album was very strong and received an outstanding amount of critical and commercial success so it would be unrealistic to expect a masterpiece that could top it. This is why I am so interested in this album. The way the circumstances have played out, no one knows how Phoenix will react to the success of their 4th album which is why all eyes are on this album.
From the beginning, there is a noticeable stylistic change in Phoenix's sound. The band is still heavily relying upon the use of synthesizers to fill up their songs, however rather than the happy, punchy, and clear cut synths on songs like "Lisztomania", the songs off of Bankrupt! feature synth patterns that are much more hypnotic, winding and muddier. For example the lead single, Entertainment, still sounds like a typical Phoenix track with the signature vocals from Thomas Mars and the steady tempo. However, the synths and keyboards in the background of the song are a lot heavier and much more dance oriented than anything on Wolgang Amadeus ever was. I can't say I don't like this new style, in fact it really grew on me over the course of this album. In fact, I thing Entertainment is one of the stronger tracks on this album.
Any fans of Phoenix who were expecting Wolgang Amadeus Phoenix part two will be sadly mistaken after listening to Bankrupt! This album is not as sleek and fast as its predecessor, however it is a new direction from the band, Phoenix which I love to see in any type of artist. Now with this being said, I will say that some of the tracks on here are just straight up annoying. Now as petty, dismissive and narrow-minded as that sounds, I will point to the second single "Chloroform" to support my claim. Thomas Mars's vocals on here are much more whinier. The song does not really go anywhere and it is just seems very lethargic in comparison to some of the dance pop tracks on this album.
In addition, I will say that the title track which is nearly 7 minutes in length seems a bit elongated for my personal liking. In essence, the song is an interlude with some nice synth sounds and vibes, however I feel as if it could have equally effective on this album if it was even half as long as it already is.
These criticisms aren't meant to be taken the wrong way, this album still has some really nice songs on here like "S.O.S. in Bel-Air" which is very upbeat and fast paced with many layers to it. Most of the time it was impossible to not at least nod my head in time with this infectious rhythm and I think that it is at moments like these when Phoenix is at their best. Their role in the world of music today is that of a fun band that people can appreciate for their musical integrity but still dance to whenever they want. Because of this, the band has developed large audiences in the pop-music crowd as well as the independent music scene.
I also cannot ignore the song "Trying to be Cool" which happens to be my favorite on the album. The song is a bit more mellow but the vibe works in this instance of the album because how laid back and in the pocket all of the components of the song are. From the beautiful flute and keyboard patterns in the background of the song from the solid groove of the drum track, leading straight back to the all-around positive vibe that Phoenix lets off as a group.
All in all, I was pleased by this record. I really enjoyed some of the songs on here and more importantly I think that the album is strong enough to silence all of the whining music who were SO ready to bitch and complain about how Bankrupt! doesn't hold a candle to Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. Although I will admit that this album is not as strong as Wolfgang even though it is another solid release from the band. I definitely see myself coming back to some of the catchy songs on this album and I recommend to anyone who enjoyed Phoenix's past work or anyone who's looking for new music that's fun to listen to.