Phoenix has always been less a great rock band and more some sly, sensitive, clever-but-not-coy enthusiast's idea of a great rock band. Part of that owes to their being French and thus born slightly outside the rock margins, but more of it owes to their uncanny command of the form—their soft touch with everything from a muted-string Fleetwood Mac guitar run to the gooey dramatic splash of a cymbal crashed at just the right time. Phoenix is to rock bands what Adventureland is to teen-summer movies.
That’s definitely not a knock. Everything on Phoenix's fourth album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, is highly mannered, to be sure. But none of it is ever forced or fussy—or, worse, less than geekily thrilled to be so carefully arranged. The single "1901" bursts with brightness from the start with a weave of ringing pop guitars and the candy-licked voice of Thomas Mars singing "fold it, fold it, fold it" as if the act of folding something (maybe a relationship) could be a carnival ride. "Fences" follows in more mellow fashion, with a slow-spinning disco lean that moves into the even mellower Air/Tangerine Dream-influenced "Love Like A Sunset." That range marks the borders of the album as a whole, and laced throughout all of it are generous, wide-eyed melodies of a kind that makes for swooning sighs and curious feelings of instant nostalgia.