Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix Regular viewers of Saturday Night Live could be forgiven for uttering a perplexed "Pardonnez-moi?" in April when the musical guests for actor Seth Rogen's high-profile… Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix Regular viewers of Saturday Night Live could be forgiven for uttering a perplexed "Pardonnez-moi?" in April when the musical guests for actor Seth Rogen's high-profile… 2009-05-26 Phoenix Pop
Music Review

Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (2009)

FRENCH ROCKERS: Phoenix
FRENCH ROCKERS: Phoenix
EW's GRADE
A-

Details Release Date: May 26, 2009; Lead Performance: Phoenix; Genre: Pop

Regular viewers of Saturday Night Live could be forgiven for uttering a perplexed ''Pardonnez-moi?'' in April when the musical guests for actor Seth Rogen's high-profile hosting gig appeared. 
 As devoted as their small Stateside fan base may be, French disco-rock outfit Phoenix seemed an anomaly in a season more attuned to Kanye, Beyoncé, and Coldplay — or even ''mainstream'' indie acts like Fleet Foxes and TV on the Radio. Give the show's talent booker some credit, though: Despite their lack of Top 40 currency, the Versailles-bred foursome actually possess one of the purest pop aesthetics on either side of the Atlantic.

Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, their fourth studio album, makes no attempts to curtail or complicate its sunny, synth-driven urges. Instead, frontman Thomas Mars — perhaps best known to coastal hipsters and film 
 fanatics as the companion of director Sofia Coppola — croons urbanely over thumping percussion, airy disco flutters, and the occasional raucous guitar riff, his lightly accented English alternating between feathery falsetto and a clear, yearning warble. On the vivacious lead single, ''1901,'' he purrs, ''Counting all different ideas driftin' away/Past and present they don't matter.'' Lost in translation? A little, maybe, but the spirit is always, essentially, of being inside some ever-groovy moment. Though the album trips lightly from slinky roller-skate jams (''Fences'') to near Brit-rocky rave-ups (''Lasso''), the underlying vibe is both retro and somehow outside of time — like a memory made 
sweeter than the real thing it recalls. A–

Download This: Listen to the song 1901 at last.fm

Originally posted May 18, 2009 Published in issue #1049 May 29, 2009 Order article reprints
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