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Phoenix – Alphabetical

French natives Phoenix draw from many different influences on their latest album, Alphabetical. This record is truly a journey, and by the time it’s almost over, you feel as though you’ve landed on another record; one that’s almost completely different from the sound that started off the trip.

What this album did was put me through subtle mood swings…one second I felt as though I could have been in some Dutch dance club and the next it was as though I was watching the credits roll for the newest Hugh Grant movie. Then all of a sudden Dr. Dre pops in with a little California Love. I must say, I was grateful for the variety of genres represented.


The opening track, “Everything is Everything,” starts with an upbeat, balanced sound, which makes perfect sense because all of the band members take equal responsibility for sound, production, vocals, etc. Vocalist Thomas Mars states, “When any one of us learns a new instrument, he teaches the rest of us how to play it. This way, we’re not stuck doing the same thing all the time.” The sound of a group effort is apparent. The journey continues and a transformation takes place in “I’m An Actor,” a low, beat-heavy mellow rock song with tinges of pop. Tracks like “Victim of the Crime,” and “You Can’t Blame it on Anybody” have a subtle hip-hop infusion, like a lightly flavored tea; jasmine tea, perhaps. By the time I get to “If It’s Not With You,” a slow and soulful song that takes its time and rightfully so; I feel like I’m listening to a different album. There are undertones of everything on this record; R&B, country, folk, hip-hop, rock…there is such a generous mixture of genre and style that it can only be described as modern and original, with a hint of über-cheesy euro-nouveau trash (look mom, adjectives!). It’s a style akin to a couple of French Justin Timberlakes, but with more of a Jack Johnson sound. Does this description even help you imagine the sound?!

In any case, there are things I like a lot about this album, but there are also an almost equal amount of things I don’t, for one reason or another. This album is not the worst. It is not the best. But it is a good bet.


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