Phoenix, “Ti Amo”
Creating an album from scratch in a French opera house over the course of several years sounds lofty, pretentious, and precious in a grandly European way, particularly for a Versailles-born dance-pop quartet. And that’s what you might expect from Thomas Mars’s group, especially since its last album, 2013’s Bankrupt!, was opulent and epic in so rococo a manner it would make Bryan Ferry seem downmarket. There’s an old James Cagney comedy called Never Steal Anything Small. That could be Phoenix’s motto.
Rather than rinse and repeat its previous gilded victories, on Ti Amo Phoenix moves smugly forward through the inspirations of dusty Afrobeat, grungy Latin sounds, in-the-red Italian disco funk, and a feeling that life, though lived like a cabaret, might not be as solid gold as Mars & Co. once imagined.
Though short and sweet, the album hides something frank, hard, and troubled beneath its lustful sheen and rainbow hues. What once was confidence coming from Mars’s scattered lyrics and bent crooning is now more shell-shocked than swaggering. Not unlike Elvis Costello & the Attractions’ Armed Forces, even at its most booming it’s laced with fear and loathing.