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Album Review

Phoenix, 'Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix'

May 25, 2009
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Indie rock
Phoenix Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Glassnote
ESSENTIAL "Love Like a Sunset, Pt. 1"
Phoenix plays the Paradise Rock Club on June 17.

If there's anyone out there who wants to love Maroon 5 but wishes they were more like the Strokes, "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix" should be the answer to their contradictory prayers. Phoenix has no qualms about wanting to be hooky and urbane, but where Maroon 5 aims for maximum slickness, there's an organic, less-anonymous feel to even dance-friendly songs like "Fences." That sensibility softens the edges of "1901" and "Lasso," which possess some of the same smooth new wave vulnerability that fuels Santigold's stealth-ubiquitous "Lights Out." Thomas Mars sings with a casual amiability so hard to resist that it helps carry Phoenix through some of the less immediate material on the album's back half. But the album's crowning moment, narrowly edging out the ELO-like bop-and-swing of "Lisztomania," is the angular melodicism of the instrumental "Love Like a Sunset, Pt. 1," all tension and warm brittleness as it ticks along like a clock with a face made from an old Fixx record. (Out tomorrow)

MARC HIRSH