phoenix alpha zulu

Phoenix, Alpha Zulu: REVIEW

“Instrumentally full of texture and colour — the album was recorded in the Louvre Palace, after all — Alpha Zulu boasts some of Phoenix’s most glittering pop tunes.”

Phoenix, Alpha Zulu (Loyauté/Glassnote)

Having a hook in your song like “Woo! Hah! Singing hallelujah!” can only come from a band that’s having a blast making music together. This is exactly what we hear Phoenix do during the title track of Alpha Zulu — and that fun and carefree vibe can be heard pretty much throughout the album, the veteran French four-piece’s seventh, and first in five years.

Produced by the band themselves, they balance bouncy pop hooks with frontman Thomas Mars’s trademark esoteric lyricism just like they always have, but the moods here tend to shift more from track to track. We also hear them continue building upon the synth-heavy direction they took starting with 2013’s Bankrupt!. Instrumentally full of texture and colour (the album was recorded in the Louvre Palace, after all), Alpha Zulu boasts some of the band’s most glittering pop tunes, including “Artefact” and “Season 2” (the latter track even references Niagara Falls!).

Techno bop “All Eyes on Me” feels both catchy and menacing at once, “Winter Solstice” is considerably darker and more electronic than you’d expect from a Phoenix tune and Mars shows solid chemistry with Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend in their duet on “Tonight.” If gripes are to be had, they’re that the album isn’t among their most consistent or unified (2009’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix remains the benchmark for that), and the inclusion of “Identical” — a song the band released in 2020 for the film On the Rocks, directed by Mars’s wife Sofia Coppola — as the album’s closer definitely feels somewhat jarring despite the being much longer here than the original version. Regardless, Alpha Zulu sees Phoenix sounding more revitalized and full of vigour than they have in a hot minute — a full quarter-century after their formation. 8/10 Trial Track: “Alpha Zulu”

The title track from Alpha Zulu by Phoenix

For more on Phoenix, please visit the band’s website.

This review was originally published in the November 2022 issue of Cult MTL.

For more Montreal music coverage, please visit the Music section.