Phoenix’s sixth LP ‘Ti Amo’ is borne from two disparate influences. One is sonically, where the band have remarked they were inspired by “summer and Italian discos” while they have also tipped their musical hat to “our European, Latin roots and a fantasized version of Italy”. The framework of the songs is built upon “simple, pure emotions; love, desire, lust and innocence”. Events closer to home are the other contributing factor to ‘Ti Amo’; Phoenix, are Parisians, the socio-political events that have swept the French capital haven’t escaped the band, plus guitarist Christian Mazzalai was trapped in the studio during a police lockdown during the horrific events that unfolded at the Bataclan Theatre. However, instead of creating a record of dark reflection, ‘Ti Amo’ has flipped a 180, or as label boss Daniel Glass puts it “I think the record came out of darkness, out of concern, but what’s resulted is this incredibly colourful record”. And this is very true, Phoenix’s new album spirals like a kaleidoscope in many ways, mainly leaning on twinkling keyboard patterns and vapour-like synths, it pays a huge homage to 80s pop and 90s R ‘n’ B.
Given the origins of the album, it’s feels harsh to negatively critique it, however ‘Ti Amo’s execution is that of a record half finished, most tracks feel like they’re missing an extra ingredient be it a hook or a catchy chorus. Whether it’s Phoenix’s pursuits of portraying endless European summer discos or very knowingly wanting to transmit the opposite of what happened on their doorstep – it’s hard to escape ‘Ti Amo’ sounds a bit throwaway. Most tracks bleed into one plus the pace of the record rarely steps out of third gear, it seems to happily idle along rather than peak and trough. The moments of sun dappled lust come as part of the album’s eponymous track, thanks to a funky bass line, choppy guitar and a siren-esque breakdown. ‘Fleur De Lys’ bucks the trend with something upbeat, as a jaunty keyboard refrain gives the song more purpose than the rest of the mediocrity on offer.
Akin to a summer romance, the album is a heady temporary endorphin rush but the likelihood of a relationship lasting into the autumn and beyond with ‘Ti Amo’ is unlikely. Still, what these times need now is some colour and positivity – there’s worse things in this world than ‘Ti Amo’ after all.
Words and thoughts of Adam Williams