Album Review Phoenix - Alpha Zulu

A fun record, on which the creators’ own enjoyment is audibly palpable

Phoenix - Alpha Zulu

That Phoenix found a space within the Palais du Louvre to record ‘Alpha Zulu’ almost feels like a footnote. Instead, the background forces that make themselves known most obviously on this seventh album for the outfit are that it almost fell out of them (guitarist Christian Mazzalai puts it as, “We couldn’t stop producing music”) and was written in the shadow of the death of frequent collaborator and friend, Philippe Zdar of dance duo Cassius. The influence of both brings a lightness to much of the record. Though the sprightly, playful ‘Season 2’ sounds completely unlike classic Phoenix, Thomas Mars’ vocals are unmistakably his; the opening title track, meanwhile, features a playfulness that sits at odds with the band’s somewhat arch nature - its “eh eh eh” offering more than a hint of Rihanna, with the bright lights of the dancefloor that the late Zdar frequently lit up in view. ‘Identical’ layers Thomas’ voice lower in the mix to allow its electronic pulse to up the ante and back again, ‘Winter Solstice’ builds to a euphoric, almost M83-like climax, while ‘All Eyes On Me’ goes hardest - a Chemical Brothers-like bassline propelling a perfect pop song. Phoenix haven’t abandoned their indie-pop side, mind. ‘Artefact’ suggests ‘The New Abnormal’ might just have been on their lockdown stereos, both its chord progressions and Thomas’ delivery pleasingly Strokes-like, and ‘Tonight’ featuring Ezra Koenig - the first time the group have featured a guest on a track - is also curiously the most obviously ‘Phoenix-like’ of the lot. ‘Alpha Zulu’ is a fun record, on which the creators’ own enjoyment is audibly palpable.

 

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