Since their 2000 debut United, French indie pop band Phoenix has earned their place in the indie hall of fame, having mastered a fashionable blend of synthpop, disco, and new wave elements. In their latest album, Ti Amo, Phoenix explores new lyrical and thematic grounds, while retaining their sleek electronic pop charm that made them a favorite among indie fans in the first place.
As its title may suggest, the album is centered around Italy, or at least a highly romanticized picture of it: a passionate land in which people find themselves and inevitably fall in love. Tracks “Ti Amo”, “Via Veneto” and “Telefono” contain brief phrases in Italian, while a couple are sung mainly in French.
Instrumentally, the album is not a huge departure from their usual style, still relying heavily on synthesizers for its atmospheric sound. Ti Amo uses shiny, bubbly synths to accompany its more sentimental tracks, whereas 2013’s Bankrupt! featured sharper, more abrasive synthesizers. Compared to their previous projects, Ti Amo is pleasingly smoother, which perfectly aligns with the album’s overall theme.
In anticipation for the album, Phoenix released singles “J-Boy” and “Ti Amo”, the two most energetic songs on the record. However, these two tracks aren’t totally representative of the album as a whole, which is full of more indie-synthpop style ballads (if there is such a thing). Songs like “Fior de Latte” and “Goodbye Soleil” are great examples of this, as is the lovely “Telefono”.
Album closer “Telefono” tells the story of a man in love with an Italian actress. The song is meant to be a phone conversation between the two, hence the name. The yearning chorus lines “Non posso vivere / troppo bisogno di te” or “I can’t live / I need you too much” make this the most captivating song on the record, and a great ending to it.
At moments, Ti Amo, does become slightly too indulgent and sentimental, such as in ‘Fior de Latte”, with its endless refrain of “we’re meant to get it on”. It does take a couple of listens to sink into its rose-colored ocean. However, the record wraps up quickly in 36 minutes, avoiding becoming tiresome or boring.
Ti Amo is a suave, yet earnest love letter to summers in Italy, first loves, youth and innocence. Everything about it is wistful and romantic. It perfectly captures these feelings and makes for a bright and charming summer record. Once again, Phoenix has delivered a great pop album to add to their legacy.
By Patricia Cardenas