Written by Zanda Wilson (@zandawilson)
French indie rock icons Phoenix have been making music for two decades now – having released their first album at the turn of the century. Over the past 17 years Phoenix’s songs have become inextricably linked with the year they were released, so as they gear up to release their sixth studio album Ti Amo on June 9th, we reflect back on the uncanny ability of the band to write music that perfectly captures the spirit of the time.
If I Ever Feel Better – June 2000
The track that first really launched a young and up-coming group of French lads into the public consciousness, and continues to enjoy popularity almost 20 years later – If I Ever Feel Better came at the perfect time for a world entering a new millennium. The year 2000 was a year of triumph and reflection after great uncertainty surrounding the digital implications of the end of the 1990s, and Phoenix’s first big single is one of those tracks that evokes different memories and nostalgia for each person who hears it.
Everything Is Everything – March 2004
While United was the record that announced Phoenix to the world, their second record Alphabetical was the album that provided many glimpses at the band that Phoenix would go on to be. 2004 was undoubtedly a year of confusion. It was the year after Myspace had launched and we were learning to navigate an increasingly online world. Phoenix chose this time to being exploring tones and textures with a heavier, more driving beat across their new record and Everything Is Everything gave the world something with a bit more substance to hold on to at a time when everything else was becoming less physical.
Liztomania – 2009
Arguably Phoenix’s most well-known song - Liztomania and the album it came from; Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix cemented the band as one of the premier alternative rock bands in the world, even picking up a Grammy for their efforts. The years prior had seen the Global Financial Crisis come and go, and it was reassuring to see a band so assured of their sound. It’s simply impossible to listen to that iconic Liztomania intro riff and not immediately jump to your fondest memories of the late 2000s.
1901 – 2009
While 1901 is quite literally not written about the time in which it was released, no list of Phoenix’s best songs would quite be complete without it. The lead single from their best album to date Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, 1901 is a nostalgic fantasy about Paris from more than 100 years ago. In that way it’s actually one of the bands' most time-relevant songs, with frontman Thomas Mars reflecting at the time of the song’s release “Paris in 1901 is better than it is now.”
Entertainment - 2013
In 2013 the meme economy was fresh and thriving, and immediate satisfaction was at the touch of all our hands in a Western World dominated by smart phones, smart watches and smart cars. Typically, Phoenix released some smart music in the form of an album that contained tracks like Entertainment about the need for immediately satisfaction and constant entertainment, and it came with a video clip made up of viral videos following a hypothetical love story across the ages.
Ti Amo – 2017
Phoenix have already spoken about how this year’s record came about as a result of locking themselves away in a studio, and starting writing after getting over the guilt that they were not reflecting on the tragic 2015 terror attacks that beset their homeland. Rather than sit in sorrow, they’ve instead crafted on of their most hopeful records to date. With lyrics like “We’ll show you how to win,” and “It’s not over yet”, the title track from Ti Amo is the perfect track for an uncertain 2017.