Hello fellow music lovers.
I apologise for my absence in the early stages of this school semester. Getting back into the swing of things after such a long break is like trying to run a marathon after a month of fast-food eating, FIFA playing and sleeping (which coincidentally is my exact holiday experience). But I shouldn’t make excuses. In fact, I am quite disappointed in myself, because only just now have I realised that reviewing is a great way for me to clear my head. I should have been using it as a study technique all along. Me so stupid!
Here’s how I’m going to make it up to you: I’m going to give you what, as far as I can tell, is a world first. A review of Phoenix’s new album Bankrupt! (which, as far I can tell, is the first one EVER) as well as my thoughts on Justin Timberlake’s new one, The 20/20 Experience. I’m writing these reviews without the help of my black book, which holds all of my reviewing notes, so let’s see how we go. I hope you accept my apology, by the way.
| “Bankrupt!” Phoenix
Phoenix are back after what seems an eternity. It was in the summer of ‘09 when I discovered Phoenix. I remember this part vividly. I was holidaying with my family in the small beach town of Tathra in NSW. Out of nowhere (or possibly the radio) came their song Girlfriend. It was new, it was different. It was simple, yet brilliant. I was soon to find out that the entirety of the album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, had the same brilliance. Songs like Lisztomania and 1901 were instant classics and to this day I can’t stop listening to them. I had my doubts over whether the band could recreate the magic of their fourth studio album on their fifth. There was a slow build up to Bankrupt! that neither confirmed nor denied my expectation. Only teasers like this to build the hype.
Then first single Entertainment dropped. At which point I was blown away. It was new. It was different. It was brilliant. It was heavier than anything on Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. This was to be the standout on a magnificent album. There is definitely an Oriental feel to the song. The alternating keyboard and guitar hooks could have fallen from a Japanese Cherry Blossom. This feel continues through the first four songs on the album, albeit varying in strength. The Real Thing hits it’s strides about half way in, while the beautifully named SOS In Bel Air and Trying To Be Cool are so catchy they could both easily be the next single, with the latter likely to take that title.
Then we reach what is the most interesting song on the album, the title track Bankrupt (although technically not the title track because it is missing an !, curse being pedantic!). This song is to Bankrupt! what Love Like A Sunset was to Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. It is an experimental, largely instrumental piece, and while definitely not the best song on the record, it is the most important. It serves as a transition from the first half of the album to the second. It is nothing but beautiful. Which is just what I have come to expect from Phoenix.
The second half of the record kicks of with Drakkar Noir. Not only was I excited that there’s now a song named after the cologne, the way he says Drakkar Noir sounds so damn sexy.
The bass in the chorus of Chloroform is the kind of thing that is so simple and so great that you just wonder why someone, mainly yourself, didn’t think of it earlier. And if anyone did think of it earlier, it must have been The Beatles. In fact, the whole song must have been inspired by them, the way it sounds.
With the final three songs, the album picks up its pace again, one song at a time. Don’t kicks it off, Bourgeois confirms my belief that Phoenix would have been the most listened to band during the French Revolution, while Oblique City finishes off their work fast, but very well. The album finished before I realised I had been dancing just about the whole way through, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
I consider Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix a piece of art more than I consider it music. This is the case again with Bankrupt!. Phoenix crafts albums so well. There is something about it that crosses that boundary into artwork for me. Whether it’s the occasional minimalist approach, or the organic sounds that appear every now and then, I don’t know. This is what I do know. This music is perfect for a summer filled with sun, barbeques and cider. Don’t stop Phoenix. Don’t even think about it.
"What you want and what you do to me
I’ll take the trouble that you have in mind”
| “The 20/20 Experience” Justin Timberlake
I’m going to start this one off by stating that I think that FutureSex/LoveSounds is one of the greatest albums of the last ten years, if not all time. It was revolutionary and kilometres ahead of its time. Its influence on pop was incredible. I was excited for his new album to drop because I was hoping for another revolution. Did we get that? Well…
No. Not really. That’s not to say that this is a bad album by any stretch of the imagination. This is actually a very good album. It has a great 40s/50s black and white movie feeling to it. More than half of the songs extend over six minutes long, including second single Mirrors, proving that songs don’t have to be written for radio to get some air time.
Pusher Lover Girl is a great start, giving us a funky, slow burner. Suit & Tie (ft. Jay-Z) starts off with James Bond-style horns before getting it’s R&B groove on. Where it lets itself down, unfortunately, and surprisingly, is when Jay-Z arrives. I know, right?
In Don’t Hold The Wall you can hear that Africa beat, which somehow fits perfectly with JT’s perfect voice. This was easily my favourite. While Tunnel Vision uses a hook that Kanye would definitely be jealous of.
Spaceship Coupe is beautiful soul music with a dash of synth, as is That Girl, less the synth. Let The Groove Get In returns to the catchiness of Don’t Hold The Wall, with much more from the brass section. The rest of the album reaches passable levels of quality and listenability.
So what is my problem with this album you ask? Well, it’s not revolutionary. Maybe I’m being harsh on the triple threat that is Justin Timberlake. There is nothing fantastically new on this album, yet, everything that is done is completed very well. In fact, R&B/Soul-infused pop is rarely done this well anymore. It’s just that Timberlake set the bar so high with his previous outing, it was just out of reach this time. But when he gets this close, why complain?
"Cause with your hand in my hand and with a pocket full of soul
I can tell you there’s no place we couldn’t go
Au revoir my friends!